Universal Design for Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs. Rocky terraces formed by yellow sulphur stand in front of a bright blue sky. Universal Design for Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park

Similarly to museums, a visit to a national park is an experience. So, applying universal design principles is more than just being accessible. It it has to offer enrichment, be multi-sensory, and engage participation. An in depth study by landscape architect Rachel Cross showcases the application universal design in Yellowstone National Park. 

Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park is a great place for a case study. Rachel Cross includes international examples and illustrations of national parks. They show how universal design strategies were applied using the four elements: accessibility, enrichment, engagement and multi-sensory experiences. 

The report features the planning and thinking behind the Yellowstone project and includes design drawings. The last part of the report has the universal design guide for national parks. 

Page from the report showing the four pillars of universal design for Yellowstone National Park.
4 Pillars of Universal Design: accessibility, enrichment, multi-sensory, engagement.

Each of the four pillars are explained in further detail for designers, an lists what is required and what is recommended. The final part of the report has concept drawings with design objectives. 

The title of the report is, Yellowstone For All: Creating an immersive, universal design experience at Mammoth Hot Springs. It is a great resource for experienced landscape architects and students alike. The reference list at the end adds value. You can also download the full PDF document. 

Project summary

“Universal design is an important, emerging practice that strives to create inclusive experiences for every person who visits a place, no matter their abilities. This report examined acts and guidelines currently used to inform the design of inclusive spaces, finding key gaps. The new guidelines were then applied to the projective design for Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

The projective design illustrated new possibilities for amenities to support accessibility, enrichment, engagement, and multi-sensory elements, thus creating a more inclusive and immersive site experience. Although many aspects of universal design can be achieved in a site design, there are unique challenges that designers must address for each project.”

Cross makes an important point about incorporating universal design features into the concept design and not leaving to a later stage. The value of universal design is better understood when it is part of the whole design process.   

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