ChesLen Preserve is great destination for naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts and has miles and miles of trails trekking through the prettiest fields, woods, stream corridors, and serpentine barrens of Chester County, PA. At 1,263-acres, it is overseen by the Natural Lands Trust, and is one of the largest private nature preserves in southeastern Pennsylvania. What really enhances and supports the various activities at the preserve is the Lenfest Center, finished in 2013 and designed by Archer & Buchanan Architecture. Additionally, its siting in the landscape and connection to the natural surroundings is very sensitively achieved.
Here are some of my highlights and observations:
- The Lenfest Center is one of those special buildings that although situated on a highpoint does a great job in complementing the landscape. This is mostly achieved through the colors and materiality of the site, but also by the simple lines of the structure. The simplest way to do this is to mimic the natural materials, textures and colors found on site and these principles are realized in the stone foundation, gabion basket retention walls, natural wood accents and exterior paint colors celebrating the green and red tones.
- I quickly realized that the cranberry trim color for the Lenfest Center was likely inspired by the staghorn sumac fruits [R. typhina] which surround the building and aid in the landscape connections.
- Who doesn’t like a good rain chain! Great mini stormwater mitigation techniques for the building.
- It was cool to see exactly what a serpentine barren looks like. With 9 acres at ChesLen, we learned that it’s a rare habitat for at least 15 plant species of special concern in Pennsylvania. My first introduction to serpentine barrens was at the Tyler Arboretum / Ridley Creek State Park properties. Serpentine stone is that unique greenish stone seen in some older buildings in greater Philadelphia and most famously at UPenn’s College Hall.
- ChesLen is one of the few places one can visit in Chester County without man made developments spoiling the viewsheds. This fact is truly a treasure these days!