Tekαkαpimək Contact Station

In the present and traditional homeland of the Penobscot Nation, Tekαkαpimək Contact Station offers an extraordinary 7,900 sq ft interpretive environment, a network of accessible paths, and an overlook greeting the rising sun.

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In consultation with the U.S. National Park Service, Tekαkαpimək, Penobscot for “as far as one can see,” is imbued with Indigenous knowledges from the Wabanaki Nations: Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Mi’kmaq Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe – Sipayik and Motahkomikuk, and Penobscot Nation. It intentionally incorporates cultural narratives, languages, images, kinship relations, ancestral representations, contemporary practices, and native materials of these lands and waters. The project was conceived as a gift by Maine-based Roxanne Quimby and Elliotsville Foundations, who selected Norway-based Saunders Architecture.

Tekαkαpimək reimagines our relationship with natural and cultural landscapes, building in balance with challenging terrain, designing with Indigenous sensibilities, and mustering a local workforce in harsh conditions to solve for structural integrity and beauty. Contending with the painful history of settler-colonialism, cross-cultural expressions of growing trust and creativity have emerged: a confluence of people showing a way forward.

Tekαkαpimək is a collective action: Wabanaki people; designers and builders; philanthropists; and the woods, waters, and their many inhabitants. We hope that like nature, it gives more than it takes.

Mir / Saunders Architecture

Uplifting places

Tekαkαpimək rises from Wabanaki stories and beliefs, clad in raw, locally-harvested and milled cedar, with rock anchors deep into cliffside ledge, cantilevering into the surrounding forest yet hidden from view of canoeists below.

One enters from the East, honoring the rising sun, as do Wabanaki, People of the Dawn. Inside, one meets sweeping westward vistas toward sacred Katahdin, “greatest mountain.” A South wing captures the warm and ever-changing light of the sun, passively heating and illuminating. The North holds a gathering space, reminding visitors to look skyward in this International Dark Sky sanctuary. In the center, one can experience all directions converging in balance.

Healthy planet

Our Wabanaki partners remind us that animals, trees, rocks, and plants are all our relatives and that our fate is tied together. Regenerative forest and land management practices support increasing biodiversity. Native plants are already regenerating from seeds found in the existing topsoil of disturbed areas. Constructed primarily of wood and mass timber, Tekαkαpimək is a carbon sink.

Nestled in a forest, window glass is bird safe and the building nears zero-emissions. Landscape material was sourced locally or from the site: ledge from excavation is used as material for roads, glacial erratics moved for construction are outdoor seating, embankments shelter parking.

Thriving communities

Tekαkαpimək reintroduces Wabanaki people within a modern context, honoring the past, showing vibrant cultures moving sustainably into the future and elevating indigenous people at grand scale on a global platform. Tekαkαpimək is coming to life as part of the Katahdin region’s economic revitalization while addressing inequity and violence of settler-colonialism by contributing to mutual healing to whatever degree we can. The participatory design and construction process nurtures holistic continuing relationships built on trust and formal power-sharing and benefit-sharing agreements. All Wabanaki cultural knowledge and intellectual property within the project is owned by the Wabanaki Nations.

Viable economics

Tekαkαpimək celebrates Wabanaki Nations and Northern Maine. Exploration of wood and willingness to push boundaries led to maximum innovative use of nominal lumber, accelerating the emergent sustainable bio-economy. Minimizing use of steel and concrete, much of the foundation, structural supports, and exterior are timber, including 160 hand-built structural laminated columns. The building operates as a thermal battery. Off-grid and mainly passive utilities: solar, shading, ventilation, radiant floor heat, and thermal mass Trombe wall, optimize the structure’s operational vitality and resilience. Tekαkαpimək will contribute to the Katahdin region’s burgeoning four-season recreation economy.

Tekαkαpimək interdisciplinary project team

Wabanaki Advisory Board members, architects, landscape architects, artisans, construction engineers, exhibit designers, philanthropic leaders, National Park Service - building cross-cultural partnerships as they explore the project site.

Metes & bounds

Tekαkαpimək Contact Station Roads and Site:

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWWNM) is located within the present and traditional homeland of the Penobscot Nation. Tekαkαpimək Contact Station is sited on a height of land known as Lookout Mountain in T3 R7 WELS, Penobscot County, Maine. The contact station site encompasses approximately 23 acres in this location. The newly constructed 19,400 foot East Branch Conservation Connector Road extends from the Swift Brook Road in the South to Seboeis Road in the North. The South roadway crosses the Hunt Farm (KWW) parcel, continues on a right-of-way easement across Baskahegan land, transects the contact station site on the Three Rivers (KWW) parcel, and exits that parcel to the North. Blasted ledge from construction is repurposed as riprap to stabilize and restrain slopes. Disturbed topsoil was collected, stockpiled, and reused onsite.

There are two precast concrete bridges on the southern section of the roadway. One spans a small stream and the other a wetland area. Bridges were selected to minimize impacts to the natural resources while providing sufficient capacity in excess of the 100-year storm event. Furthermore, bridges allow maintaining the natural condition of current crossings which provides clear access for fish and wildlife. These structures are constructed using interlocking concrete blocks for the abutments. A steel substructure supports the precast concrete bridge decks creating the span.

The portion of the roadway through the contact station site at the top of the mountain includes 48 perpendicular parking spaces with four being accessible spaces. At the south end of the site there is a loop which provides parking and the capability to change direction for larger vehicles such as buses and recreational vehicles. A 1,643-foot-long service road loops around the top of the mountain connecting theNorth and South roadways to the Contact Station building. A 160 ft. offshoot path services the lower-level building exit. There are two additional accessible parking spaces a short pedestrian way from the building. In addition to traffic guidance, six interpretive signs direct motorists and nine signs and waysides welcome and orient visitors on the site.

At road level above the Eastern Lookout, a view of the Dawnland opens to encompass all Wabanaki homelands, Penobscot, Mi’kmaq Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseets, and Passmaquoddy Tribe. There are stairs and a 260 ft. outdoor recreation access route to a gathering circle at the base of the Lookout. At the center of the gathering circle are carved double curve designs representing kinship and unity among the Wabanaki Nations.

In the middle of the site there are 1550 ft. of accessible walking paths with entryways adjacent to accessible parking spaces along the roadway, a 450 ft. East-West accessible meandering path, and 1620 ft. of protected accessible sidewalk routes along the parking areas. Terraces, main gathering spaces, and steps on the site are paved with locally quarried granite. All paths are surfaced with permeable crushed stone. There are nine constructed pedestrian benches.A number of glacial erratics are resituated as bench seating at locations throughout the site. There is one picnic area with two picnic tables.

The solar array and septic fields are located to the north of the contact station. The array is approximately 2,700 square feet in area. The septic fields are gravity fed from the Contact Station and utilize a 2,000-gallon septic tank before entering a leach field designed for 1,140 gallons per day. The fields are constructed using Eljen drains and are comprised of three separate fields to best fit the terrain.

Tekαkαpimək Contact Station Building:

The Tekαkαpimək Contact Station building is 7,896 gross square feet on two levels for 242 occupants. The main level is Assembly Group A-3 with Accessory Business space. The lower level consists of mechanical rooms and crawl spaces. The crawl spaces adjacent to the mechanical areas are not included in the square footage. The front entry and rear balcony exterior covered spaces are 330 square feet and 338 square feet respectively. The structure is Type V-B construction consisting of a laminated wood post and beam frame, cross laminated timber and concrete floor slab, wood columns, wood trusses, and structural insulated wall and roof panels (SIP). The roof is metal standing seam. Punch opening triple pane windows with exterior roller shades are throughout the building with bird-safe triple pane curtain walls at the end of each wing. The building interior includes signage and interpretive exhibits which are individually described and detailed in a Content Management System. 

The building is off the electrical power grid with a 36.75 kW remote solar array for electrical service and a propane generator for backup. There are two drinking fountains/water filling stations, nursing room, two multi-user restrooms and one single-user/family restroom. A non-site well supplies potable water and a septic system services the waste. The building is passively cooled through a thermal mass in the floor in addition to convection venting and ceiling fans. The thermal mass floor system also provides passive heating in the cold weather months, in conjunction with a solar trombe wall. Three wood burning fireplaces and hydronic radiant heat from a propane boiler complement the passive heating. Electric baseboard heat is included in some of the mechanical spaces. The propane boiler provides hot water for the building. With the exception of exit lights, there is no exterior lighting, the property lying within an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. A remote, unconditioned, 804 gross square foot maintenance shed is to the north of the building.

Reed Hilderbrand

Mir / Saunders Architecture

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