ACCESSIBILITY AND ADAPTIVE USE
In the immediate future, two issues that could have major effects on the physical fabric and architectural integrity of Bandelier's CCC buildings are providing handicapped accessibility and incorporating adaptive use. This section sets forth general guidelines and philosophy to govern decisions affecting the physical fabric, character, and integrity of this national historic landmark district. The historic buildings and their immediate landscapes are a national historic landmark district that must be preserved. These guidelines concern NPS as well as concessioner-initiated activities.
Like other federal agencies, the NPS is mandated to comply with the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In brief, the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds after 1969 to be accessible to and usable by persons with physical disabilities. Section 504 of the 1973 act prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental handicap in most federally assisted programs or activities. NPS-28 states, "in the case of historic structures and sites, accessibility generally means direct access to all aspects of programs and services." Compliance with this dictate is through the use of the Unform Federal Accessibility Standards, 41 CFR 101-19.6.
To guide parks and monuments in meeting these mandates and departmental policies, the Southwest Regional Office has prepared a handicapped access plan (August 1986). As part of that plan, each park will prepare a self-evaluation for handicapped accessibility. Bandelier's draft self-evaluation, prepared in 1987, discusses visitors' and park employees' access to buildings, services, and interpretive programs. Problem areas are cited, and alternative and proposed solutions given. After review comments are incorporated, the draft document will be distributed for public review. In addition, the handicapped access plan stresses that the regional special populations coordinator review and comment on plans, designs, and specifications that may influence, directly or indirectly, handicapped accessibility. This system earmarks the special populations coordinator as a key team member to be involved at the earliest possible stage.
Certain physical characteristics of Bandelier's architecture elements common to the pueblo revival style warrant description here because of their direct connection with handicapped accessibility. The most notable element of the style that creates an obstacle to access is the frequent change in floor level. This change occurs from room to room and from exterior to interior. Small changes of two or three steps are significant features of that architectural style. For the most part, the steps are functionally necessary and architecturally significant. The designers specifically chose to terrace the buildings gently up the hillside. In a few instances, the architects included the level changes as aesthetic rather than functional choices. In either case, however, the spatial experience of progressing through the different levels of rooms and patios is one aspect of the district's architectural significance included in the national historic landmark nomination. The subdued vertical motion is a significant part of the perception and architectural beauty of the buildings.
Other characteristics of pueblo revival buildings are the types of doors and doorways at Bandelier. The multilight double doors into the visitor center and administrative offices, for example, are an integral part of the buildings' front elevations. They create a specific visual image and a strong physical impression when people enter. The solid wood doors at the entrances to the rest rooms are also an integral part of the architectural ambience of Bandelier. These prime architectural elements are among the prime obstacles to handicapped accessibility.
Bandelier's self-evaluation for handicapped accessibility addresses specific problems in a number of buildings. Among these are
Other concerns, such as the height of wall telephones, counters, plumbing fixtures, mirrors, and door closures, and marked handicapped parking spaces, are included in the document. The self-evaluation also proposes solutions. For the most part, the proposed solutions provide an acceptable level of accessibility while respecting the buildings' integrity.
Eventually solutions will require implementation. The designer, then, becomes the responsible party. In considering Bandelier's accessibility problems, the designer of the physical solutions must acknowledge the paradoxes in federal laws and regulations and agency guidelines. Preservation law and accessibility law can operate at counterpurposes. Preservation law mandates that this agency preserve the stone steps of the landmark buildings and landscape, while accessibility law mandates that the agency provide access which could mean demolition or significant alteration of historic fabric. The designer of the physical solutions must seek a common ground to attain the dual goals of preservation and access.
To reach the common ground, the designer should do as follows:
Often programmatic alternatives can alleviate the level of required treatment, especially in the case of addressing employee accessibility (versus visitor accessibility). For example, modifying existing Mission 66 housing for accessibility may prove an acceptable alternative to altering a CCC structure significantly. Similarly, certain historic housing units would require fewer modifications than others. Moving people or functions to an acceptable facility rather than modifying historic fabric is also a possible approach.
By keeping within the guidelines of NPS-28 and those proposed in Accommodation of Disabled Visitors at Historic Sites in the National Park System (1983) as well as the above tenets, the designer should be able to meet the challenges imposed by handicapped accessibility. Any change to landmark buildings is, of course, subject to compliance with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Adaptive use is the process of adapting a structure or site to provide a new use other than that for which it was originally designed. Often, adaptive use requires no architectural modifications at all. In some instances, adaptive use can necessitate major changes to both interiors and exteriors of buildings, such as construction of additions, alterations to fenestration, and changes in room configuration. In other instances, changes can be confined to interiors. In a similar manner, landscape features can be modified in adaptive use. Examples are regrading for drainage or accessibility, and introducing lighting, mailboxes, and so on. Site and building modifications brought about by adaptive use, however, may affect the appearance and architectural integrity of the district. Adaptive use also allows a building with an obsolete function to evolve into one with a more vital function. Benefits for continued use of a building may be enormous.
The landmark status of Bandelier's CCC district brings with it heavy responsibility to preserve the buildings' historic fabric as well as the district's ambience. Buildings solely on the National Register can be treated with a little more latitude in the area of physical changes to accommodate adaptive use. The national historic landmark district at Bandelier a national treasure requires considerably more thought to accommodate adaptive use and preserve the historic fabric and integrity.
A few general guidelines establishing a preservation philosophy are included here. Without exception, the buildings' exteriors must be preserved. Interiors, however, can accommodate minor changes. The monument staff and the designer should consider the following:
Several alternatives for adaptive use are possible. Programmatic changes may prove to be an alternative design solution. In instances in which adaptive use of an interior space seems feasible, the designer should propose as few changes as possible and question the necessity of each. Some buildings can undergo minor modifications to allow upgrading. All changes to upgrade structures should respect the materials, scale, and ambience of the original design.
The cumulative effect of fabric modifications can be detrimental to cultural resources. Energy conservation, adaptive use, and accessibility compliance can all require physical changes to structures and sites. Any one modification may appear minor and consistent with departmental clearance procedures, but over a period of years a series of these minor changes can add up to an adverse impact. With changes in staff, memory of the original configuration is slowly lost by those responsible for the buildings' care and preservation, a problem of "inherited context." In all such cases, an orientation of reversibility should be pursued, alternative solutions explored, and proper clearance procedures followed. In addition, such work should be properly recorded, and removed fixtures should be properly tagged and put in the park curatorial collection.
Last Updated: 08-May-2005