Thoreau Memorial Visitor’s Center at Walden Pond

Concord, MA

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation wanted to design and construct a new welcoming center for the visitors to Walden Pond. They envisioned an environmentally responsive, Net-Zero-Energy building completely powered by the sun as a fitting tribute to Henry David Thoreau’s passion for living lightly on the earth.

The DCR worked closely with the Walden Woods Project, a non-profit devoted to Thoreau’s legacy founded by acclaimed singer-songwriter Don Henley in 1990 to preserve the forest lands surrounding Walden Pond and establish the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods whose library houses an extensive collection of Thoreau-related resources. Walden Woods helped the the DCR develop interpretative exhibits to present Thoreau’s philosophy and his time living at Walden including the production of a film on Walden by Ken Burns.Boston-area architect Mary Ann Thompson, known for sustainable design, was retained to design the new center and SDA was retained to power it with solar energy. The key design challenge was to power the new facility with the sun without any additional tress taken from the Walden reservation.

SDA collaborated with the design architects and the DCAM/DCR project team to design solar electric shade canopies over the existing parking areas to provide optimal solar harvest with no additional tree removal. SDA also specified multiple solar-powered electric vehicle charge ports and a informational display for the center to present the solar system attributes and building performance to visitors.