National Journal Spotlights Small North Carolina Project

Merchants Millpond Visitors Center, Gatesville, NC. Photos © Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives

Merchants Millpond Visitors Centers captures ARCHITECT magazine’s attention.

May 21, 2010 (RALEIGH, NC) – “Even small buildings can have an important, and positive, environmental impact,” writes architecture critic Vernon Mays in an article on the Merchants Millpond Visitor Center in Gatesville, NC, for Architect magazine, one of the nation’s leading professional architecture journals.

The Visitors Center, designed by Frank Harmon Architect PA of Raleigh, was completed this spring to serve as a gathering point and educational facility for Merchants Millpond State Park, a Registered Natural Heritage Area that covers 1900 acres and includes the millpond and part of Lassiter Swamp.

Mays describes the new 7500-square-foot center as a “modest, wood-framed structure [that] incorporates a low-tech approach to sustainable design and recalls a historic mill that once occupied the site.”

Recalling the old mill fulfilled a commitment that principal architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA in Raleigh, made to his client, the North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation.

“I promised the client our building would have the feel of the old mill,” Harmon told Mays. “It wouldn’t look like the old building, but it would have the qualities of a rustic, wooden structure with rafters and deep overhangs.”

The article discusses the building’s position on the sensitive site for solar orientation, natural ventilation, and panoramic views of the surroundings. It also stresses the architect’s use of eco-friendly materials – from cypress reclaimed from hurricane-felled trees felled in the Great Dismal Swamp to floors of recycled heart pine – and sustainable building systems, including ground-coupled heat pumps, daylight sensors and a rainwater collection cistern.

“Harmon envisioned the visitor center as ‘a big, well-lighted tent’ with lots of flexibility,” Mays writes. “The building is not only economical—constructed simply with 2x6s, 2x10s, and prefab wood trusses—but also green, with a target of LEED Gold.”

Available online at, Architect magazine’s coverage of the Merchants Millpond Visitors Center includes a slide show of photographs of the building by Charleston, SC-based photographer Richard Leo Johnson/Atlantic Archives, along with a complete list of materials and sources and all members of the design and construction teams.

Published by Hanley Wood, Inc, Architect covers architecture news, market intelligence, business and technology solutions, continuing education, building products, and other resources for practicing architects. For more information, go to

For more information on Merchants Millpond State Park, visit

For more information on Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

About Frank Harmon Architect PA:

Frank Harmon Architect PA, a multi-award-winning firm headquartered in downtown Raleigh, has extensive experience with projects that blend architecture with enhancement of and education about natural resources, including the recently completed Walnut Creek Urban Wetlands Park Educational Center in Raleigh, Duke University’s Ocean Science Teaching Center in Beaufort, NC, Prairie Ridge Eco-Station in Raleigh, and the NC Botanical Garden’s new Visitors Education Center in Chapel Hill. The firm was recently ranked 13th among the Top 50 Firms in the nation by Architect magazine primarily for design quality an, commitment to sustainability. For more information, go to Frank Harmon Architect PA is also available on Facebook.

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