The new welcome center has been organized to provide museum support at the highest level, and to enhance the experience of The Breakers property while standing modestly in the background to avoid negative impact to the grandeur and elegance of the beloved mansion. As such, the welcome center has been placed on the site of the current ticketing tent, behind the Caretaker’s Cottage. Carefully set within the historic cypress and beech grove in order to maintain visual screening from The Breakers and its southern terrace, the welcome center remains immediately accessible to the front gateway. To allow visitors to easily find the welcome center and encourage them to consider a stroll around the extensive grounds of The Breakers, as an extension of the museum experience, the welcome center has been located along an historic serpentine garden path that perambulates the property. The currently overgrown greenery along this path and around the site of the welcome center will be pruned and additional layers of planting—flowering ground cover, flowering and deciduous hedges, and ornamental trees of various scales appropriate to the Newport gardens--- will be added to create an inviting garden setting, that invites exploration and relaxation and harkens to the Bowditch-designed garden paths of an earlier period. New openings in the chain gate at the intersection of this path with the carriage road encourage visitors to explore the south gardens as well as the north.
To carefully nestle into the romantic landscape, and provide the four basic patron services--- Ticketing, Technology, Toilets, and Tea--- the welcome center has been organized as a cluster of modest-sized pavilions with a meandering garden path-like circulation between. The pavilion closest to the Carriage Road contains friendly greeters who provide tickets and guidance to museum visitors with the support of information-rich media screens. Along the way visitors are introduced to interactive displays and exhibits that provide historical context to the mansions they will be visiting. Beyond the ticketing pavilion, one finds an expanded and fully accessible restroom pavilion that serves visitors both entering and exiting The Breakers property. On the north side of the welcome center visitors initiating or concluding their tour of the property can find the servery pavilion. There, pre-packaged foods and drinks can be purchased. A modest amount of seating, within the indoor glass conservatory or the outdoor garden terrace, allows for brief stays for reflection and refreshment. Its location and orientation provides all seating the opportunity to enjoy lovely water views across the sun-dappled lawn.
Inside the welcome center, visitors encounter an elegantly tall and light-filled pavilion embedded within the gardens of The Breakers, in which can be found a rich trove of information. A wall exhibit at the door introduces the historical background of the Newport Mansions in the context of the town of Newport. From there, interactive media displays allow visitors to explore facts and images of the properties they might like to visit, and from there they move on to friendly greeters at ticketing kiosks who can assist them with their remaining questions, and advise them on appropriate ticketing and/or membership packages, event schedules, house facts and maps, all supported by large-scale media displays, controlled by, and behind the greeter. To provide year-round comfort, cool air can be delivered softly through the wood slat ceiling during the warmest months of summer, while on cold days radiant heat can be introduced through the stone tile floor. In moderate weather, windows and skylight can be opened for the comfort of natural ventilation.
The welcome center can also be approached from the north garden path, a frequent meander taken by visitors leaving The Breakers and the Children’s Cottage. There the servery pavilion, under the shade of the wide-branched ornamental beech tree, welcomes visitors in for rest and refreshment before leaving The Breakers property.
In future phases the historically inspired
and layered landscape design surrounding the welcome center will be
extended along the perambulatory pathway of The Breakers property, in
order to enhance the garden experience, dramatize cinematic vistas of
the house, and create educational opportunities highlighting the design
principles of the property's earlier historic periods.