National Park Architecture

Jasper Park Lodge's Rustic Modernism

Much of so-called hospitality architecture leans too heavily on nostalgic imagery for my tastes. Especially so are those buildings that are in or adjacent to national parks, which try to harken back to pioneer days. True, there are many great, truly rustic lodges in the West -- Timberline, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Glacier National Park -- to name but a few. But those lodges, if not built during the time period we typically associate with pioneering days  (the 19th Century), were at least pioneering in the location within which they were built, which was more often than not far removed from established roads, towns, and other support infrastructure.

This lack of support meant that -- much as the true homesteading pioneers -- lodge builders relied on hand tools and manual labor, local craft traditions, and other limitations not posed today. Lodges built in the later half of the 20th Century and to this day were (and are) not faced by such hardships, yet many (most?) continue to evoke forms that have nothing to do with the time or traditions within which they were built. This is not the case at Jasper Park Lodge,  where the architect (whose name I could not ascertain during my stay there) artfully blended an historic 'lodginess' with mid-century modern flair.

Most likely built in the 1950's, this incredibly well conceived building combines the seemingly disparate goals of handcraft and the then jet-age aesthetic into a wholly original design. I can only image the struggles the architect endured balancing the expectations of rough-hewn and hand-crafted, with where his or her heart really was -- firmly modern. Fortunately for us, they were able to not only represent both, but do so in a highly original and satisfying way. And is a most spectacular setting.