Modern Outpost

A destination in Occoquan State Park celebrates the area’s rich history

Nestled against a bluff overlooking the Occoquan River in Lorton, Virginia, the Jean R. Packard Occoquan Center unites expanses of wood and glass in a bold, modern structure. Commissioned by the NOVA Parks system, Baltimore-based GWWO Architects conceived the 18,367-square-foot, multi-use building as a venue for visitors to commune with the parkland and river, learn about the region’s history and enjoy a picturesque spot for recreation.

Sited to blend with the surrounding topography, the LEED Gold-certified building emphasizes sustainability and a gentle footprint. The concept is the union of contrasting halves. “Each is articulated with different structural systems and materials, yet tied together—one light and delicate, one solid and strong,” notes GWWO design principal Alan Reed. The glass-and-steel side is a backdrop for events; the other, clad in cypress timbers harvested from the river bottom, houses the 1608 Room (named for the year of Captain John Smith’s voyage through the Chesapeake Bay), an interpretive exhibit on the area’s history.

A lower volume contains a restaurant with al fresco seating; a green roof minimizes the visual impact of this section while its brick exterior references historic structures preserved on-site—including a kiln that produced brick 100 years ago.

Architecture: Alan Reed, FAIA, LEED AP, principal-in-charge; Lisa Andrews, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, project manager, GWWO Architects, Baltimore, Maryland. General Contractor: Forrester Construction Company, Rockville, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Rhodeside & Harwell, Alexandria, Virginia. Photography: Sam Kittner.