After several years of research and information gathering, the Land & Garden Preserve has selected a design team led by the firm Unknown Studio Landscape Architecture & Urban Design to develop a comprehensive framework plan to guide the Preserve’s future operations and stewardship of over 1,400 acres of lands and gardens. The framework plan will document environmental, historic, and community factors that will influence decisions to improve operations, visitor experience, infrastructure, and sustainability. Goals of the framework plan include enhancing ecological conservation and promoting resilience to climate change.

“The Preserve and its people are eager to work with Unknown Studio and their team on this crucial planning initiative as we continue to steward and share our precious lands and gardens for present and future generations to experience and enjoy,” said Preserve Board Chair Sam McGee.

The Preserve is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to share the beauty of historic lands and gardens on Mount Desert Island including the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Asticou Azalea Garden, Thuya Garden, and over 1,250 acres around Little Long Pond and in Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor.

The need for the framework planning project arose from the recent significant expansion in acreage and infrastructure when the management of the three gardens and natural lands were combined under the umbrella of the Preserve. This expansion began in 2015 with important gifts including Little Long Pond and the Abby Garden from the late David Rockefeller, who co-founded the Preserve with his wife, Peggy, in 1970. The Preserve is now responsible for stewarding and sharing culturally important lands and gardens stretching over three miles from Northeast Harbor in the west to Hunters Cliffs in the east.

Following a thoughtful and selective process guided by the Preserve’s Facilities Committee, Unknown Studio was selected to lead this pivotal project. Unknown Studio is a landscape architecture and urban design practice based in Baltimore, MD. They have assembled a team with deep experience in the planning of large, complex cultural sites with particular expertise in multi-phase planning over long timelines.

“Unknown Studio is honored and humbled to guide this far-reaching framework plan, together with the Preserve and an amazing team. We recognize that the people, culture, and values that have shaped this place have had an outsized impact in establishing American thought about stewardship, conservation, public lands, ecology, garden design, and landscape architecture. We look forward to envisioning the future of the Preserve for generations to come,” said Claire Agre, principal, Unknown Studio.

The framework plan will involve a rigorous discovery phase including analysis of the site, history, buildings, structures energy use, utilities, aspect, visitor experience, circulation, viewsheds, ecology, local climate/environmental conditions, and climate change, including sea level rise. The plan is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2021 and resulting recommendations will be phased in over the coming months and years.

Design and engineering teams joining Unknown Studio will include Beyer Blinder Belle, a New York-based architecture firm with vast experience in historic preservation and facilities planning. The operations and maintenance planning, phasing, and prioritization will be conducted by SiteWorks, a New York-based firm. The James W. Sewall Company from Old Town, Maine will be responsible for site, civil and transportation engineering. SMRT Architects and Engineers out of Portland, Maine will be responsible for the MEP and structural engineering. Moffatt & Nichol, an international maritime engineering firm, will take responsibility for the maritime planning and coastal resilience aspects of the project. Faithful & Gould will conduct cost estimating of resulting plans.

The team will also include local expert advisors including Malcolm Hunter, PhD, professor of conservation Biology, University of Maine; Stephen Ressel, PhD, professor of biology, College of the Atlantic; Glen Mittelhauser, ecologist, Maine Natural History Observatory; Jill Weber, botanist, College of the Atlantic; Geo Soctomah Neptune, artist, historian and indigenous placemaking advisor; Chris Newell, executive director of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, and senior partner to Wabanaki Nations; and Christian Barter, Acadia National Park trail crew supervisor. Because of the tremendous influence of Beatrix Farrand on the Preserve’s landscape, Thaisa Way, PhD, resident program director for Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. will serve as an historic advisor to the team.

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