Jean R. Packard Occoquan Center

Lorton, VA

Visitor orientation, environmental education space, exhibit, café
Multipurpose event rental space, commercial kitchen, event preparation and staging spaces
Outdoor terrace, pavilion, waterfront plaza, trails
LEED Gold Certified
NOVA Parks
Programming, Site Analysis, Sustainable Design, Full Design Services, Construction Administration, Building Information Modeling

Sited on a bluff overlooking the Occoquan River, the Jean R. Packard Occoquan Center is designed to serve many functions: as a wedding venue where couples can begin their life journey; a space children, teens, adults, and corporations can gather for special events and celebrations; and a location where visitors can gain a deeper understanding of both the history and unique environment of the site.

Upon entrance to the Park, visitors leave the fast-paced world behind and a generous arrival court allows guests to be dropped off at the building’s soaring glass entrance, giving way to a view of the river and the vegetation beyond. Making their way around the site, guests get a fuller view of the facility, seeing the building’s two primary material components—glass and timber—coming together as one, a poetic symbol of the event they may be there to witness.

Driven by the contrast between, and union of, two halves—one light and delicate (public/events) and the other strong and solid (support)—the architectural expression of the Occoquan Center is articulated through the use of different structural systems and materials: delicate steel and glass on the west side allowing for expansive views of the river, and heavy timber and wood cladding on the east. Similar patterning between the halves ties them together to create a cohesive structure and references the historic structures on site.

With a focus on story-based design, the concept for the Occoquan Center reflects its unique physical setting and history, intertwining the design of the facility with the park’s existing palette.

A prominent feature of the building is 'The River View,' an elegant wedding and special events venue with sweeping views of the Occoquan River, including a terrace and garden area. 

Located adjacent to ‘The River View’ is the ‘1608 Room’ lobby with interpretive education displays about the history of the park and site. The interpretive foyer is named after Captain John Smith's voyage of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in 1608. The lobby highlights his journey through the region and features an outline of a large compass rose on the floor overlaid by the shallop he sailed in, coupled with sails floating above.

1608 Room
1608 Room
Brickmakers Café
Brickmakers Café


AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Jury Citation 
AIA Baltimore Excellence in Sustainability & Resilience Award

The lower level primarily serves park-related functions and contains the riverfront ‘Brickmaker’s Café’ with indoor and outdoor seating opening directly onto the lower terrace, a waterfront plaza and boardwalk, park offices, and various associated amenities. Other project features include a private hospitality suite in a renovated historic building, ‘The Pavilion’ for large outdoor events, and a 5k trail loop around the site.

The building further gives a nod to the area's rich culture and history through the use of river-recovered heart cypress as the building's timber and wood cladding—a species that is native to the area and harvested from the bottom of the river. The area's documented history with the cypress species dates as far back to 1608 where Captain John Smith recounts in his journals seeing cypress trees throughout the area. 

“This facility will take Occoquan Regional Park to the top in terms of local destinations.  It will provide great educational value for generations to come ...” 

—Paul Gilbert, Executive Director, Northern Virgina Regional Park Authority