Easter Island's Visitor's Center
You can't get much farther away than Easter Island, a volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. I hope to go one day; and if/when I do, I'll be curious to check out this new sustainable visitor's center that just opened in Orongo, the most-visited place on Easter Island.
Officially named the Centro de Recepción de Visitantes de la Aldea Ceremonial de Orongo, the visitor's center is an effort to "demonstrate how preservation work goes hand in hand with educating tourists and helping local communities to develop long-term strategies to manage sensitive sites such as Orongo," says Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund. The WMF helped develop the center (which is managed by CONAF) and has worked on preservation projects on the island since the late 1960's.
The goal was to create a green building, and a model for sustainable visitor's centers around the globe. To that end, it's built around an existing structure, a former warden station. The original construction materials were recycled and incorporated into the new building; solar and wind energy were added to power the structure; and there are composting toilets and a rainwater recycling system in the restrooms.
The center is located at the entrance to the Orongo Ceremonial Village, one of the most significant archaeological sites in Rapa Nui National Park. Its purpose is to introduce visitors to the park, providing information and educational materials, while at the same time encouraging visitors to respect the natural and cultural heritage of the place. Its underlying goal is sustainable tourism—helping to monitor and manage visitation to the fragile and much-trodden site.