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  Sweet Grass Rest Area, Page 52Sweet Grass Rest Area
DT Architecture
825 Great Northern Boulevard, #201, Helena, MT 59601

Sweet Grass, Montana
Total Square Feet: 2,182
Construction Period: June 2001 to Mar 2002

Construction Team
General Contractor: Swank Enterprises - 615 Pondera, Valier, MT 59486
Structural Engineer: Stelling Engineers - 600 Central Avenue, #211, Great Falls, MT 59401
Landscape Architect: Fischer & Associates - 2815 Montana Avenue, Billings, MT 59101

A rest area is a unique oasis in Montana. Across some vast expanses of the state, it may be the only comfortable place for miles to stop, stretch your legs and have a picnic. This isolation, which can be powerful and inspiring, can also present issues of energy and natural resource demands. The more the buildings systems are self-sustaining, the better. Sweet Grass Rest Area addresses the safety issues that are needed in an isolated environment by providing a facility fully visible from the parking lot, and a common lobby for men and women. Appropriate materials were selected for a remote site — materials that are locally available and visually fitting.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDoT) commissioned DT Architecture of Helena, Montana, as the building design consultant to Stelling Engineers, to design a new prototype rest area for Montana. Sweet Grass was chosen as the first location to build this new “prototype” rest area. Determined to provide user-friendly, safe and pleasing rest areas in the state, MDoT conducted a survey of rest area users to assess the issues of safety, aesthetics and energy efficiency. The design is a response to these issues.

Through the concept of a “local wall”, DT Architecture created a rest area that has a consistently recognizable form and yet would make exciting and unexpected transformations across the state. All of the functions that are normally strewn about the site at a rest area are organized along this “local wall” with the rest area building itself being completely earth sheltered behind the wall. The structure is one that can be replicated across the region and with changes in material, fit comfortably into the vast diversity of landscapes found in Montana.

In reflecting the coloring of materials found on site in Sweet Grass, the retaining wall is a colored pre-cast concrete with sandstone inserts. A great deal of sandstone was found in excavation and became landscaping elements throughout the site. Native grasses can be viewed through openings in the upper portion of the wall, as well as on trails that take visitors through a diversity of landscape features representative of the Sweet Grass area.

A ground-source heat pump running underneath the filled berm provides stable temperatures for heating and cooling the building. Shaded southern-exposure windows allow for winter heat-gain and summer shading.

The 450-square-foot lobby houses area information and maps, drinking fountains and access to the eight single-use restrooms. The lobby and each restroom door are fully visible from the parking area through a glass wall. Four of the eight restrooms are handicapped accessible, two are designated unisex, three are women’s and three are men’s. All restrooms are child friendly with four having diaper-changing stations and all having baby seats.

Situated on the United States side of the Canadian border, the rest area gives travelers a safe, earthen refuge from the harsh environment, a place that goes beyond the simple call of a “rest stop”.

DIV 07: Waterproofing: MiraDrain® by Carlisle; Insulation: Atlas Roofing Corporation; Metal: Integris Metals. 
DIV 08: Metal Doors & Frames: Curries; Overhead Doors: Raynor; Entrances & Storefronts: Vistawall; Glazing: PPG; Hardware: McKinney, Schlage, Sargent, Pemko. 
DIV 09: Tile: Crossville Ceramics; Paint: Sherwin Williams.

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