The Center, designed by Tonetti Associates Architects, combines the restoration of an 18th-century French military warehouse with a state-of-the-art 21st-century learning center.
Ticonderoga, NY, July 6, 2008: Fort Ticonderoga Association dedicates the new Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center on the parade ground of this National Historic Landmark. Designed by Tonetti Associates Architects, the Center combines historical fidelity with contemporary design imperatives: the building is a faithful reconstruction of an 18th-century magasin du Roi on the outside, with a 21st-century education and visitor center inside while incorporating features that will earn it a LEED “green building” rating.
When visitors walk through the arch onto the Fort’s central parade ground, they’ll see a structure with French-style masonry and details, reflecting the secure warehouse built during the French and Indian War. “The original building was blown up by retreating French troops in 1759,” says Andrew B. Wright AIA LEED AP, Tonetti Associate Architects’ Partner-in-Charge on the project, “so, for the first time in almost two hundred and fifty years, the core structures of the Fort will be complete. Timed with the Fort’s 100th season as an historic open-air museum, this is a very special event.” The new Center will allow the museum to remain open year-round for the first time in its history.
Not only is the building an accurate reflection of its predecessor, but – in keeping with the Fort’s longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship – it’s a forward-thinking “green” building. Early in the design process, Fort Ticonderoga Director Nicholas Westbrook made a commitment to reduce the building’s impact on the environment as much as possible. Despite the strictures of fitting a “green” building into an 18th-century envelope, the Mars Education Center is slated to receive a LEED Silver rating.
The LEED rating was achieved through both careful building practices and selection of materials. Stone used for the exterior was quarried from a ledge less than a mile from the Fort itself; the quarried stone, unsuitable for use in the building, was recycled into a sedimentation pond at nearby Haque Brook to reduce run off into lake George. The feature with the largest reduction in energy use, however, is the geothermal heating and cooling system that serves the entire building, using heat pumps from three deep wells to take advantage of the earth’s natural energy. Though initially met with some skepticism on the part of the work crew, the system made believers of them on its first day of operation, when crew members reported that the building was “too hot” in the middle of a Ticonderoga January.
Inside the building, visitors will find a robust, 21st-century education center complete with electronically equipped classrooms, exhibit spaces, production spaces for television, radio and newspaper interviews, a museum store, a central Great Hall, and what the museum calls “essential mingling spaces.” A visitor who attended a spring preview of the building for the museum’s annual Seven Years’ War conference called it “a Fabergé jewel of a building,” while another commented: “The word experience describes it best: a total immersive, interactive, educational, entertaining and fun experience.”
Research for the project spanned three countries and two continents. It started with the Fort’s superior collection of 18th-century maps and diaries, and included Canadian sources at Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Vieux-Montréal, Québec; French sources at the coastal fortifications of Normandy and Brittany; and American sources at the New York Public Library, the library of the New York Historical Society, and the New York State Library in Albany.