The Great Outsiders explores the forgotten architecture of Mission 66, a ground-breaking conservation program that invested one billion dollars into U.S. National Park infrastructure between 1956 and 1966.

 

 

Central to the Mission 66 project was the visitor center, an ambitious new building concept intended to appeal to suburban Americans and ease pressure on the over-burdened parks. Visitation had increased dramatically since the end of the Second World War due to the sharp rise in car ownership and a solution was needed to centralize and orient the increasing numbers of  families driving to the parks. 

Designed in the modernist style, the visitor centers split opinion over appearance, but revolutionized the park experience for the general public. Vacationers could park their cars, view the main attractions and exit via the gift shop. An outdoor experience as simple and convenient as visiting the local shopping mall. 

The visitor center remains the primary way over 300 million people each year experience the national parks. However, many Mission 66 buildings are now under threat as maintenance costs mount and people turn away from their austere design, returning to the traditional cabin-style buildings that they replaced. This has led to the remodeling or demolition of many of the structures and in a cruel twist of irony, the very buildings that helped conserve the natural landscape of the parks are now themselves fighting for preservation. 

The Great Outsiders documents remaining visitor centers from the Mission 66 era, exploring the under-appreciated beauty of these outposts of suburbia and their presence in a modern parks system looking to move on. 

 

 

Explore the Locations

The Great Outsiders will document 25 Mission 66-era structures found in National Parks, Monuments and Recreation Areas across the United States. 

View the locations as I photograph them below and stay up to date with the project by signing up to the Substack mailing list. 

 

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