Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains near New Paltz, New York, is marking its 50th anniversary this year with a renovation of its green design award-winning Visitor Center tucked cozily into the woods. Electrosonic was charged with creating several new exhibits for the main floor, which enable visitors to maximize their time in New York’s largest nonprofit nature preserve.
With over 8, 000 acres of mountain ridges, fields, streams, ponds and other unique and beautiful places, Mohonk Preserve is dedicated to protecting the Shawangunk Mountains by inspiring people to care for, enjoy and explore the natural world. Visitors can bike, hike, climb, ride horses, run, ski and snowshoe in the Preserve. Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership was responsible for the architecture, interiors, graphic design and exhibit design of the Visitor Center project.
The Visitor Center is a stone and wood structure set on over 40 acres including the J & S Grafton Sensory Trail, LaVerne Thompson Nature Trail and Children’s Forest. The main floor is an open room with an area for membership and visitor information. Large windows in the back overlook the Preserve providing the backdrop for a three-dimensional topographical map that gives bird’s-eye views of trails and major points of interest. Electrosonic added four 32-inch ELO interactive touchscreens to the map. Visitors can access details and photos about the trails and attractions via the touchscreens with content created by the Preserve in collaboration with Richard Lewis Media Group.
At the entry is the “Nature Notebook, ” made up of two 46-inch Samsung LCD screens provided by Electrosonic and hung in portrait mode. One side is a Welcome Information Station, which features weather updates and daily information on trail conditions and upcoming events. The other offers visitors a chance to leave observations and questions with a keyboard and mouse, which is displayed like a Twitter feed. The Preserve posts seasonal nature observations as prompts.
Electrosonic installed and programmed the 10-minute orientation film produced by Richard Lewis Media Group, and displayed it in a visitor orientation theater with bench seating. The theater boasts a 26-foot wide curved screen fed by four projectiondesign F12 projectors blended and warped via Dataton WATCHOUT. Four JBL speakers and a subwoofer provide the theater’s sound.
“The theater was our biggest challenge, ” noted Electrosonic project manager Jackson Benedict. “It’s a very small space with a low ceiling. We had to use fixed-lens projectors, which meant there was very little tolerance in installing them. We had to build a custom ceiling mount that allowed for projector adjustment in the field, as necessary. Projector airflow in the small space also had to be managed effectively.
“The very sharp curve of the screen provided a challenge for warping the blend in WATCHOUT, ” Benedict said. “It was quite complicated. Shifting the projector one inch in the wrong direction would change everything.”
A Crestron control panel in the theater enables guests to start the film on their own. “The screen displays a loop of beautiful photos with a prompt to start the film with the touch panel, ” Benedict explained. “There are two operating modes: with or without subtitles.”
A small control room behind the screen houses equipment in a single rack. The content for all of the interactives can be updated remotely to keep content fresh and up to date. “Electrosonic worked with the exhibit fabricators to make sure we had relatively easy access to all equipment for service, ” said Benedict.