Design a museum to befit the rural setting of Fort Smith, Arkansas by transforming its urban typology

Use the operation of shifting to break the monolithic profile of a typical nine-square museum into a sprawling facility that utilizes natural light and existing pedestrian trails

A nine-square figure is proportioned and subdivided to fit all interior functions. The subdivisions are shifted in response to exterior and interior conditions, resulting in “scars” that create framed views of the landscape and allows natural light to permeate inside.

Exhibit and Sawmill functions shifting allows existing trail to intersect with museum entry to the north…

Vertical exhibit shift permits more northern sunlight into the exhibit spaces…

Sawmill shift creates a sheltered space for existing trail to continue westward by going down a grand stair that negotiates the steep topography of the site…

The projection of the sawmill and exhibits present the museum as a terraced form that grows from the landscape:

The sawmill and field north of the museum act as centers of forest management for the rural landscape, converting trees downed to promote shrub growth into dimensional lumber and other primary wood products. Visitors following the pedestrian trail can see the process of converting timber into lumber from underneath the spanning exhibit hall.

lobby and atrium

The lobby and adjacent atrium, both lit from above by the “scars” from the shifting of subdivisions, act as the center for the museum with access to the exhibit, offices, learning center, and gift cafĂ©. The atrium houses a 180 year-old sawmill as a centerpiece of the museum, which is dedicated to the hardwood manufacturing industry in Fort Smith.


The exhibits are subdivided into two levels dedicated to the local and global markets served by the hardwood industry. Natural light from the north is given preference in the preservation of the artifacts inside. Views at each exhibit level allow visitors to reflect on the transformation of wood from a natural state to the manufactured condition presented in the museum.