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Nestled into the rolling topography of Bonnet Springs Park sits a new cultural center for the residents of Lakeland, Florida

Welcome Center at Bonnet Springs Park

Bonnet Springs Park, Inc.
Lakeland, FL
6,545 GDF
Matthew Arrielly; Jeremy Bittermann
Additional Services
Interior Design
Landscape Architecture
Completed 2022

A warm embrace greeting every visitor that enters Bonnet Springs Park, the Welcome Center makes use of curvilinear lines and organic forms to introduce its visitors to the new 168-acre park they are about to explore.

A new public amenity for the city of Lakeland, the Welcome Center offers robust cultural programs with bold architecture that anchors the new Bonnet Springs Park. The building is set into the site’s unique topography, which was created by mounding and capping contaminated soil from an existing abandoned rail yard. The combination of round and linear elements throughout the building’s exterior create harmony with the surrounding landscape, cultivating a holistic welcoming experience for every visitor. The building curves to hug the circulator, a main walking path that weaves throughout the entire park, while the linear geometry of the heritage gardens at the entrance extends to the building as concrete floor patterns and vertical pine board facade.

A Gateway into Bonnet Springs Park

Greeting visitors as they enter the park, the Welcome Center hosts a gift shop, café, private offices, and multi-media art gallery. Interpretive exhibits in the second-floor gallery highlight the region’s agricultural, industrial and cultural past, while the heritage gardens at the building’s entrance features a landscape inspired by this history. Outside the building, guests will find a large overhang over a shaded outdoor patio with lounge seating, offering a moment of comfort and respite from the Florida sun.

Entering the building from the ground level terrace, visitors find themselves in the gift shop, bounded by a large curved, terrazzo staircase that leads to the second floor gallery space and private offices. The gallery uses interactive media to tell the story of the park’s transformation from a rail yard to an abandoned brownfield to the community asset it is today. From here, visitors can step outside to the elevated patio and admire the beautiful views of the heritage gardens below, which feature rows of raised plant beds and sculptural elements inspired by the iconic Florida orange grove.

A Material Palette that Reflects a Unique Regional Context

One of four buildings born out of Sasaki’s design for Bonnet Springs Park, the Welcome Center design is both unique and part of the material story told throughout the park. The design deploys deep overhangs and shade screens– a motif visitors can expect to find at the Nature Center and Event Center as well. Southern yellow pine, a regionally-sourced material incorporated throughout the park, is used on the building’s exterior and soffit, protected by the deep overhangs to minimize maintenance.

Vertical pine boards of alternating widths create a musical pattern, allowing the wood to harmoniously curve along the changing radii of the facade. A nod to the Florida Modern movement, ribbons of white stucco complement the pine facade, offering a crisp yet warm contrast against the lush backdrop of the park. The two-story structure is nestled into an adjacent hill to the north and made accessible via ramp or stairs that guide visitors to and from the elevated patio, offering an integrated experience between the landscape and architecture.

The Welcome Center interiors follow the story of the exterior– offering curves and linear elements, with a balance of warm and crisp materials. The pine soffit found on the exterior permeates to the interior ceiling edges, exaggerating the blur between outdoors and indoors, while the striped concrete paving of the exterior patio similarly continues into the building’s floors. Upon entering the gift shop, a grand curving staircase leads the eye through the double-height space to the gallery, where clean neutrals maintain a calming space and subtle pops of deep colors emphasize spaces of interest, such as the conference room entry or meeting nooks.

The Welcome Center was completed in 2022 following the opening of the newly transformed Bonnet Springs Park. Along with the Event Center, Nature Center, and Florida Children’s Museum and Cafe, the Welcome Center was a product of robust engagement and design process that sought to offer the residents of Lakeland an accessible, ecologically-focused, and community-centered asset for generations to come.

For more information contact Fiske Crowell.

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