About the Program

Designing the Parks Interns gathering field data and notes for a Cultural Landscape Report.

The Designing the Parks program aims to reinvigorate the design of national parks and bolster the National Park Service’s role as a leader in public park design. The program emerged from two park planning and design conferences held in 2008, the first examined lessons from past approaches, and the second focused on the present and future state of our parks. The Designing the Parks program engages five principles:

  • Respect place
  • Engage all
  • Model sustainability
  • Design beyond boundaries
  • Communicate clearly

The Designing the Parks program introduces young diverse groups of students to National Park Service design and planning professions through several initiatives. A Parks for the People student design competition was held in 2011-2012, challenging college and university design students to reimagine the national parks and examine their roles in contemporary society. The Designing the Parks Summer Internship Program was initiated in 2012 at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. Since 2013, the program has been hosted by the National Park Service Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. The interns assist park staff in examining opportunities to improve visitor experiences, while protecting and managing cultural and natural resources.

Many project focus on research and preparation of Cultural Landscape Reports that provide designers and park managers baseline documentation upon which to develop creative design solutions to the issues and problems facing public use of historical landscapes. Other projects focus on the use of data collected through preservation planning projects and transfer of knowledge gained from preservation planning.  Designing the Parks interns will be actively involved in:

  • Site visits, historical research, and problem solving
  • Meeting with allied NPS programs and professionals
  • Meeting with local landscape architectural firms
  • Participating in design discussions with park staff and stakeholders
  • Photography, sketching, and developing written narratives
  • Creating maps using GIS, computer aided drafting (CAD), and Adobe Illustrator
  • Creating videos, a blog, and a final presentation and report

Learn more about Designing the Parks: