What it was really like:
Architects recreate a World War II internment camp with the help of software
The internment of
more than 100,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals
in "War Relocation Camps" across the country after Japan's attack
Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and during much of World War II is a sordid
U.S. history. Most people know about or have heard of the
internment, but it's
not talked about much. The thought of U.S. citizens summarily
locked up and
relocated into camps on American soil is an unsettling one.
Several of the camps were in the western United States, and one
such location was Heart Mountain in Powell, Wyo. The Heart Mountain
camp once confined 11,000 Japanese Americans. In order to tell the
story of this camp and educate visitors, the Heart Mountain Wyoming
Foundation, Powell, has embarked on a $5.5 million project to
create an 11,000-square-foot (1,022-m2) Interpretive Learning
Center on the site, which will include an interior replica and
updated exterior design of the original internment camp barracks.
The project is currently under construction and the design took
into account input from internees, historians, scholars and Wyoming
Early on in the process, the HMWF was having trouble finding an
architect who shared its vision of the project. So when Schutz Foss
Architects, Billings, Mont., was hired, the firm knew it had to
make an impression. In order to make the plans come to life, Schutz
Foss CAD technicians used a software program called Autodesk Revit
Architecture from Autodesk Inc., San Rafael,Calif., to create
renderings of the project. Autocad Architecture from Autodesk was
used for the architectural drawings.
According to Allen Rapacz, president of Schutz Foss and the
architect on the project, the renderings for Heart Mountain were
based on an original camp barrack in Cody, Wyo.
"The owner let us into that original building and that's where we
got all our detailed drawings. We got an actual sample of the red
brick for the chimneys. We photographed and measured it, trying to
make it more accurate,"
Rapacz said. Rapacz said the computer renderings made for a
dramatic presentation that not only showed exactly what the
structure would look like but details, such as how the light at
dawn influenced the character of the camp.
"The renderings [allow people] to look at all the buildings with
all the colors and all the plantings," said Tyler Martin, CAD
technician with Schutz Foss.
Senior CAD Technician Thor Sand added that the Autodesk software
allowed them to quickly change materials without having to redo the
"It's just real
quick," Martin said. "If I do a rendering for a building and
someone wants to see the siding of the building in a different
color, I can re-render it really quick. It makes it a lot easier
for owners to understand what their building is going to look
From Tar Paper to Metal Walls
The walls of the original barracks at Heart Mountain consisted of
black tar paper and wood lath. To achieve the original look and
atmosphere but still update the structure so that it holds up over
time, Rapacz chose 5,090 square feet (473 m2) of Citadel Panel 20
metal panels in Ebony with a prefinished Silver trim from Citadel
Architectural Products Inc., Indianapolis.
"Part of the concept the owner had was to go ahead and not copy the
existing barrack design but mimic it in concept, and that's where
we came up with this Citadel panel," Rapacz said. "It's the perfect
product for that. It's a great product because it mimics what was
there. When you look at this project from the highway it's amazing;
it looks like a real [barrack] out there. Another architect tried
concrete, but you couldn't put the vertical ribs on."
The color match was a key factor in selecting the Citadel panel,
and Rapacz said some people, seeing the camp being constructed from
afar, have even mistaken it for tar paper. It's exactly the kind of
realistic replication the designers were hoping to achieve. The
metal panel also had to withstand the area's weather, which can be
hot, cold, windy and subject to hailstorms.
According to Rapacz, Citadel allowed latitude for the possible
expansion of the panels under direct sunlight.
"We used the metal panels for their durability and how well they
hold the color without fading," added Sand.
With an expected completion date set for the summer of 2010, the
recreation of a part of the Heart Mountain camp is certainly more
involved than the original-a single barrack took only 58 minutes to
construct-but located on the original camp land purchased by the
HMWF and near the original living area, it will try to capture as
much of the site's look and feel from the 1940s as possible.
Along with the Learning Center and replica barracks, there will be
a reflection garden, a guard tower at its original location on the
center's property and a reconstructed sentry station at the
Inside the center, multimedia exhibits will focus on camp life;
internee responses to relocation; debates over military service and
the draft; the camp's contribution to the agricultural economy; the
Heart Mountain newspaper; the sacrifices of those who served in the
100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military
Intelligence Service; and the postwar experiences of the internees.
Special emphasis will be given to U.S. Constitutional issues, civil
liberties and rights, diversity education/training and ethnic
After visitors go through an initial set of exhibits in the main
building, they will have a chance to explore a recreation of the
interior of the camp barracks and experience as realistically as
possible what it was really like to be there.
Owner: Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Powell
Architect: Schutz Foss Architects, Billings, Mont.
General contractor: Filener Construction, Cody, Wyo.
Metal wall panels: Citadel Architectural Products Inc.,
Rendering and architectural drawings software: Autodesk Inc., San