HOK takes a walk on the wild side in upstate New York

Architecture City Terrain East Environment Landscape Architecture
(Wild Walk / Flickr)

(Wild Walk / Flickr)

Fancy a walk up in the trees? Upstate New York now has its own “High Line” of sorts at the Wild Center in Adirondack Park, part of the Tupper Lake area.

(Wild Walk / Flickr)

(Wild Walk / Flickr)

Designed by Charles P. ‘Chip’ Reay, a former senior vice-president at HOK, the Wild Walk is an addition to the current Wild Center at Adirondack Park which was also designed by Reay.

The elevated walkway takes you into the natural world, offering spectacular views over the park from a full-sized replica bald eagle’s nest in the tree tops. Here people can easily visualize the life of the species which have made a huge comeback to the Adirondacks. The feature is only one part of the journey through the woodland as you are submersed into the life of the forest, even traveling through old tree-trunks at points.

Stephen Chagnon from Adirondack Accessibility takes a preview tour of Wild Walk with naturalist, Meadow Hackett. (Wild Walk / Flickr)

Stephen Chagnon from Adirondack Accessibility takes a preview tour of Wild Walk with naturalist, Meadow Hackett. (Wild Walk / Flickr)

Other features include a “spider’s web,” a four-story twig tree house, and swinging bridges mainly aimed at children, creating the opportunity for play in an elevated setting that would otherwise just be used for viewing purposes.

Speaking to AN, Reay emphasized his idea to “create a more intimate experience,” especially in relation to the center itself. “Wild Walk is much more of a journey inward” said Reay. “The journey offers a diametric opposition to what goes on in the wild… think of it as simplifying the forest geometry, we really didn’t want to create a ‘Disney effect’.”

(Wild Walk / Flickr)

(Wild Walk / Flickr)

Indeed the walk appears anything but Disney-like. Careful selection of materiality stops the experience from feeling synthetic and artificial. Pointed towers, fabricated from Corten steel reflect the surrounding natural context. The spikes rise to support various bridges and walkways. Meanwhile, tree houses make use of shingle-clad roofing. The constructed space, however, is clearly defined from its wild setting, just not abstractly so. In turn, users can feel safe, being secure in the knowledge that the steel structure is more than adequate despite their presence in the lofty heights of the forest.

Pieces and parts of Wild Walk (Wild Walk / Flickr)

Pieces and parts of Wild Walk (Wild Walk / Flickr)

In constructing the walkways, Reay was was quick to comment on how the process involved minimal disturbance to the surrounding area. According to Reay, the exhibit fabricators, Cost of Wisconsin, played a big role in this, giving special attention to specially preparing the concrete and shielding wildlife from the construction site.

LP Quinn kids get their first preview of Wild Walk. (Wild Walk / Flickr)

LP Quinn kids get their first preview of Wild Walk. (Wild Walk / Flickr)

Wild Walk also takes cues from its New York City counterpart, which looks downright low in comparison. Described by New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff as “mesmerizing,” the High Line was successful in part due to its elevated nature which offered an alternative perspective of the city and providing an uninterrupted route across the city grid. “It is the height of the High Line that makes it so magical, and that has such a profound effect on how you view the city,” said Ouroussoff. “Lifted just three stories above the ground, you are suddenly able to perceive, with remarkable clarity, aspects of the city’s character you would never glean from an office window.”

Likewise, Wild Walk offers an equally unique outlook on the forest and perhaps one that many city dwellers have never seen before. Currently, 80 percent of U.S. citizens live in cities—and the Wild Center hopes to lure some of those urbanites out into the country with their Wild Walk experience.

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