Us Land Port of Entry, Van Buren, Maine

PrizeHonorable Mention in Architectural Design /
Firm LocationMinneapolis, United States
CompanySnow Kreilich Architects
Design TeamDESIGN ARCHITECT: Snow Kreilich Architects, Inc. ARCHITECT OF RECORD: Robert Siegel Architects
ClientGeneral Services Administration

The design of the new US Land Port of Entry in Van Buren ME fuses an abstraction of the cultural and landscape context with concepts essential to port operations: surveillance and camouflage. Located in the St John River valley, an area profoundly influenced by its roots in the Acadian culture, this heritage is made visible in Van Buren’s original town plat of long narrow plots oriented toward the river. Forests still cover much of the area, providing another layer to the genesis of the design. As the repetition of trees in a forest provides camouflage, the building uses patterned repetition of joints, columns and mullions to provide officers both concealment and direct visual site surveillance. To provide maximum visual surveillance, the main work areas are largely clad in glass. To balance the need to see out while mitigating the “fishbowl” effect, a silk-screened pattern on the glass provides camouflage and glare protection. The building envelope is conceived as a taut wrapper of the simple building form. A flush condition between the glass and metal cladding creates surface continuity, reinforcing the sleek building form while also blurring the difference between the glass and metal. Warm colored walls add glow to the interior, enhancing visitors’ passage through the port while offering officers a warm work environment in a climate that is often cold and hostile. The site is long and linear, following the bluff line of the St John River. Abstracting the Acadian land divisions and regional agrarian landforms, the site design consists of a series of low, linear mounds and rows of trees perpendicular to the river. The site simultaneously creates a bio-swale system for filtering water and a cohesive experience of the site. The site circulation is a dominant port design factor, responding to traffic movements and site configuration.