The SRNA Headquarters building is important as it stands as a unique building design reflecting both governmental projects and conservation ideals. Serving as the local headquarters of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, it supports education, conservation, recreation, and a governmental agency. It’s “late modern” design, wooden construction and jagged shape mirroring the very mountains it represents makes it worthy of recognition. Completed in 1977, the building doesn’t yet meet the “50 years old” designation required to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places and thus receiving the protection that comes with it.
Idaho Senator Frank Church first introduced the bill in Congress to create the SRNA in 1966. President Richard Nixon eventually signed the bill in 1972 to establish the SRNA, necessitating the headquarters building. The site and the design of the building created debate before eventually being settled. The building design was approached with the idea that it would be practical, convenient and well designed. Of course, with government buildings, these ideals often clash. Architect William Bruner, a California resident, decided to use the snow capped Sawtooths as his inspiration to create a building with a jagged roofline, much like the mountains themselves. Bruner also wanted the building to be “sympathetic” to its surrounding environment to represent the conservation ethic of the day. Thus, his use of extensive wood shingles and paneling works with the surrounding aspen grove in which the building is situated. The design met many criticisms, from its severity to concerns about roof leakage from the wooden shingles. Even the 70’s energy crisis caused some to criticize the large glass windows of the design. The SRNA building was eventually finished in 1977 and its design was so unique for a government building that it became a model for unique design of the day, showcased in federal design competitions and by the National Endowment for the Arts.