A Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for Yosemite National Park

A Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for Yosemite National Park
A Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for Yosemite National Park
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A Sense of Place is an architectural and landscape design-guidelines book developed by a team of architects, landscape architects and national park staff for Yosemite Valley, a world-class park area undergoing constant change.

The intent is to inform building and site development and rehabilitation efforts in order to retain a holistic and natural aesthetic within this cherished national park - an essential aspect of long-term preservation goals and contribution to visitor enjoyment of this national treasure. New or altered facilities should be designed to be compatible and respectful of the park setting, both natural and human-made.

The ultimate goal is to enhance the unique sense of place embodied by this extraordinary Valley.  To that end, content was distilled from information gathered on field trips over the course of three years, and includes the following aspects:

  • The characteristics that constitute the appropriate design and rustic style of the park's architecture and the built environment were analyzed by the project team.
  • Sketches and photographs illustrate key design points in building and landscape architecture.
  • Content also encompasses natural-setting characteristics, including scenic views, vegetation, and natural systems and features.

A historic overview on the park and its importance in the history of national park development, wilderness and scenic protection as well as development of a design ethic in Yosemite precedes the guidelines portion of the book.

Related products:

Yosemite: A Guide to Yosemite National Park -Print Paperback format --can be found here: https://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/024-005-01046-7

Yosemite National Park (Poster) is available here: https://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/024-005-01044-1

Other products produced by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) can be found here: https://bookstore.gpo.gov/agency/222


These guidelines are a reference for anyone affecting the design of the built environment within the park boundary, including architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers, concessioners, administrators, maintenance personnel, design review staff, and park managers as they work to create contextually and environmentally appropriate structures and landscapes. 


Award Winner, 2013: Selected as one of Notable Government Documents, 2013, featured in Library Journal, Three Decades of Excellence article at http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2014/05/best-of/three-decades-of-excellence/

Each year, the ALA GODORT Notable Documents Panel selects what it considers to be the most “Notable Government Documents” published during the previous year by Federal, state, and local governments and includes the list of winners in its prestigious Library Journal (LJ).  Known as "the most trusted and respected publication for the library community," LJ provides groundbreaking features and analytical news reports covering technology, management, policy and other professional concerns to public, academic and institutional libraries. Its hefty reviews sections evaluate 8000+ reviews annually of books, ebooks, audiobooks, videos/DVDs, databases, systems and websites."

Revised and expanded from the 2004 edition, this history of development in ­Yosemite covers up to the present. With maps and historical images, the authors attempt to influence the design ethic of future park developers and establish guidelines so that successive plans are compatible with the rhythms and spirit of Yosemite’s landscape and scenery.

Background from the National Park Service about the need for developing the guidelines in "A Sense of Place":

For thousands of years humans have dwelled in Yosemite. It was the first natural area set aside by the federal government for protection of outstanding scenery and has served as a profound inspiration for preservation philosophy in American and world history. Managed as a park since 1864, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are landscapes that reflect the complex interplay in the environment between the natural and the human-made. As places set apart, the park and its wondrous settings continue to evoke reverence and awe in all who visit.

How do people build on what many consider sacred ground? This has been an ongoing challenge for all who have designed facilities in the park. Within this grand setting, people have created a built environment to protect the park's resources and to facilitate enjoyment of them by generations of visitors. Hundreds of historic buildings and structures complement the natural setting and have become part of the total park identity and visitor experience.

The National Park Service (NPS) recognizes that to uphold Yosemite as a special place, new facilities must be designed to be compatible and respectful of the park's natural and cultural setting.

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  • Yosemite National Park
  • California
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