DESIGNBOOM: openscope gently frames california’s better place forest

openscope studio nestles a glowing, timber visitors center along a wooded crest of california‘s better place forests in point arena. the work introduces a framed view towards the meadow below, marking the threshold of the visitor’s journey into the forest’s memorial groves. better places forests offers a sustainable alternative to cemeteries. within these protected forests, families choose trees to mark the place where they’ll spread their loved ones’ ashes over generations.

images by hewitt photography



with its better place forest visitors center, openscope studio seeks to highlight the project’s natural surroundings rather than its constructed elements. the site and architecture gently frame a sequence of events — arrival, orientation, memory, threshold, and release. an entry road descends into the site and arrives at the visitor center. sited at the crest of a hill, this singular building is a place of orientation on the threshold between public and private. the concept’s realization involved a large team of design and technical specialists, led by fletcher studio.

better place forest OPENSCOPE



openscope studio’s better place forest visitor center is the only building on the 20-acre site. the compact structure hosts two small meeting rooms, a restroom, and a staff room. the covered deck provides opportunities for small groups to gather for informal ceremonies while the overlook offers visitors a panoramic view of the forest and the meadow beyond. the team seeks to create a definitive threshold — to make explicit the transition, literal and figurative, at the edge of the forest. the building overlooks hillside atop a set of piers, and the pathway that divides the structure brings the visitor from the ground directly up into the tree canopy. the folded roof pulls past the floor plate, providing deep overhangs to shade and protect the deck while the redwood fins provide privacy in the meeting rooms.

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project info:


project title: better place forest visitor center

architecture: openscope studio

location: point arena, california

interior designer: openscope studio

landscape architect: fletcher studio

memorial design: matsys

structural engineer: dolmen consulting engineers

general contractor: empire contracting, inc.

completion: 2019

photographer: hewitt photography

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