Sun Valley Visitor Center Wins American Architecture Award

Sun Valley Visitor Center Building Wins Major

International Architectural Award­­­­­


Architect Susan Desko's Design Featured in Traveling Exhibition


Ketchum, ID, September 21, 2012 — The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance (SVMA) announced today that the Sun Valley Visitor Center, which was transformed last fall by Ketchum architect Susan Desko from a decaying, vacant bank building into a community gathering place, is a recipient of the highly prestigious American Architecture Awards for 2012.  The Awards are international in scope, and honor new and cutting-edge design.  They are organized by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.  

A record number of projects for new buildings, landscape architecture, and urban planning, including ones from the most well-known firms around the world, were submitted for consideration.  Desko’s design was deemed one of the best by the jury, and will be featured in a traveling exhibition that opens in October at the Istanbul Biennial in Turkey.  The Visitor Center will be in the company of highly regarded designs for skyscrapers, major museums, university buildings, corporate headquarters, and even the High Line in Manhattan.  

“We never dreamed that with such a small budget, the Visitor Center could become not only an architectural icon in downtown Ketchum, but a building to be featured halfway around the world,” remarked SVMA president and chief marketing officer Arlene Schieven.   “There were many in this community who knew the design was special – including scores of volunteers and donors – so it’s very exciting to see our building, our city, and our architect recognized in such a major way.”  Schieven pointed out that because of the painfully small budget, Desko had opted to work for SVMA on a pro bono basis, and also helped to raise funds to complete the project.

Capturing the essence of the local landscape, Desko used reclaimed and “deadfall” logs from the nearby area to invigorate the exterior and interior of the building.  Massive wood totems on the outside – “Log Out” – identify the building from afar, while the totems on the interior – “Log In” – wrap around the visitor information hub.  Steel-framed panels of stacked wood are featured inside and out, and local wood is used for countertops and benches.  Multimedia technology, including iPads and video screens, are featured throughout the information hub.  Desko also took advantage of the old bank vault, turning it into a public meeting room that honors former local Ernest Hemingway, displaying larger than life photos of the area’s beloved icon.  The design features the seamless integration of a Starbucks coffee shop as well, bringing locals and visitors together in a unique way.
“We are obviously thrilled with the news of the award,” said Susan Desko.  “It represents a great opportunity to showcase the importance of design and architecture, but also how a community can rally together to ‘raise a barn,’ so to speak, after a dismal few years in the local economy.”   She also pointed out that the whole project was completed in just 10 weeks.  

The Visitor Center has sparked many favorable comments from locals and tourists.   Seattle artist Judith Kindler, who visits periodically, wrote on Trip Advisor, “The unique updating of a log cabin concept into a total contemporary and extraordinary environment sets a tone for our dear Ketchum by creating a central place to relax, enjoy friends and uplift the spirit. The vaulting logs reaching to the skies are just brilliant.”

The Sun Valley Visitor Center is located at 491 Sun Valley Road, at the corner of East Avenue, and is adjacent to the Ketchum Town Square.  The building is owned by the Ketchum URA, which leases the space to the SVMA and the Cairde Group, operator of a Starbucks coffee shop.  The redesign undertaken by Desko was led by SVMA.  
The Award recipients can be viewed at  The jury this year was organized by the Federation of Korean Architects in Seoul.   The exhibition, “New American Architecture,” featuring the award winners will travel throughout Europe after leaving the Istanbul Biennial. 

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