Park’n’Fly

June 13th, 2011

As the only commercial airport located in a National Park, Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming has a mandated requirement to stay pretty low key. This created some interesting challenges for the design team at the Denver office of Gensler in their renovation and expansion of the existing terminal. Of course, with a backdrop of the dramatic Grand Tetons range, remaining rather insignificant in the whole scheme of things isn’t such a stretch.

After postponing the previous week’s arrival, we’d landed the previous day in pouring rain, with heavy clouds hanging low over the Snake River valley, obscuring the scale of the nearby peaks. Apparently it had been a very wet Spring so far, with very little sunshine to speak of. Rivers and streams were swollen from the recent storms, the winter snows had barely begun their inevitable melt. But, the local optimists opined, Wednesday could be good.

Overnight, the weather miraculously cleared and we headed out before dawn to catch the first light hitting the mountains. Rounding a bend at the north end of Jackson, you get your first glimpse up the expanse of the valley with the majestic Grand Tetons stretching towards the horizon. What a fabulous way to start the day!

I was looking for a view that really presented the airport as a simple linear gesture in the extraordinary landscape. We’d scoped out a potential position the day before but couldn’t be sure the light was going to do as I wanted. Without the reflected highlight on the leading edge of the airport roof, the structure would simply disappear. I needed the early morning reflection but not the direct light that would give too much detail to the valley floor.

Barely sunrise and we had our first shot in the bag.

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