This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.

Presentation Video and Transcript

By Julie McGilvery and Michael Holleran


This presentation explores the roles, opportunities, and limitations of studio-based partnerships between the NPS and universities that are designed to push the limits of standard preservation practices and treatment solutions. The primary case study is the Badlands National Park Centennial Design Studio (Badlands Studio), created in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. As the National Park Service (NPS) celebrates 100 years, we face a very different set of planning and preservation issues than that of the twentieth century. Partnerships with our nation’s architecture schools offer innovative approaches to protect and sustain the historic built environments of our national parks. Specifically, the design studio format provides creative, cutting-edge research, planning, and design solutions while educating a new generation of designers.

The Badlands Studio, conducted during the Fall Semester of 2015, pinpointed the rehabilitation of the Cedar Pass Developed Area (Cedar Pass) of Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Cedar Pass is a designated cultural landscape and the only developed area within the remote and rugged park landscape. The cultural landscape of Cedar Pass originated from 1920s early tourism, was later bolstered by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, and finally master-planned and completed by the Mission 66 program of the NPS (1956 – 1966). Through these iterative building efforts, the cultural landscape contains vernacular and designed features including a lodge, cabins, campground, visitor center, housing, roadways, and vegetation. By the early 2000s, Cedar Pass suffered from neglect and was undervalued, threatening overall landscape integrity.

In 2014, the NPS was in need of a comprehensive preservation plan for Cedar Pass. Rather than turn to standard planning tools and procedures, the NPS looked for ways to create a plan with a structured sustainability component capable of producing a systems-based method for treatment. Further, NPS staff wanted to create an approach to address perceived polemics of nature versus culture and sustainability versus preservation. In order to accomplish the research, planning, and design goals, NPS staff produced a framework for a multi-disciplinary cultural landscape-based design studio coupled with the ecosystems services guidance of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). The University of Texas at Austin was targeted for this project due to their robust and interdisciplinary approach to design education and their invaluable landscape and ecology research unit, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Studio outcomes reflected both the areas of study and interests of the students and their instructors. Equally important, the studio provided the NPS with new perspectives and solutions for the aging landscape. The studio process made clear that the constraints and challenges introduced by this type of partnership push boundaries for both the NPS and their partner universities. Those constraints and challenges have the potential to create new and innovative planning tools for the future of our parks.


Julie McGilvray is a historical landscape architect for the National Park Service serving Intermountain Region Parks from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She holds a Masters of Landscape Architecture, a Masters of Science in Historic Preservation, and a Bachelors in Anthropology. Before joining the NPS, she explored the South and Southwest as an archaeologist and historian, which deepened her interest in historic landscapes. Ms. McGilvray currently conducts cultural landscape studies and provides historic preservation guidance and recommendations for NPS units.

Michael Holleran is the Director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has also taught at Rhode Island School of Design and at the University of Colorado, where he served as Associate Dean of Architecture and Planning. He practiced for twelve years as a partner in Everett · Clarke · Holleran Associates, a planning, architecture, and landscape architecture firm in Rhode Island. He earned his PhD at MIT and has published extensively on the history of preservation. His current research includes vernacular landscapes of irrigation, and participatory methods in cultural resource surveys.

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