Homebase for Outdoor Adventure

L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery School
Freeport, Maine

The L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery School overlooks picturesque Brickyard Cove in Lower Flying Point, just southeast of Freeport on the Maine coast. The new facility is the first of its kind for L.L.Bean, and is designed to serve as a base and education center for kayak, paddleboard, and cycling expeditions. The project takes its cue from its pristine location and the familiar L.L.Bean brand, with an overarching design theme of creating a memorable experience for those who come to enjoy this special place and nature in general.

The Outdoor Discovery School caters to both the season outdoorsman and the curious child, taking advantage of every opportunity afforded by the site to bring them both as close to nature as possible. The visitor experience as one drives down the access road toward Little Flying Point is all-important. The site comes into view gradually; arriving at the parking lot, the visitors can see the water, smell the salt air, and begin to anticipate the day’s adventure.

In this short movie, architect Mark Spaulding and designer Michael Pardek discuss the inspiration for L.L.Bean's first Outdoor Discovery School.

Making Do

The site was previously used as a campground. Since acquiring the 29-acre property, L.L.Bean had been running kayaking and cycling programs out of a collection of leftover structures at the site. A rented double-wide trailer served as a staff office, classroom space, kitchen, and winter storage. L.L.Bean desired a perminent home that was welcoming for visitors and gave its staff the tools necessary for them to create great experiences for participants.

It Starts With an Idea

The project began as an invited competition. SMMA was afforded the opportunity to meet with the staff and tour the existing property, which allowed us to experience firsthand how staff and visitors use the various parts of the site. In developing our first diagrams, we knew we had to figure out how to mesh the interactions among staff and guests within a small footprint.

The Outdoor Discovery School aims to connect one with nature through activities. The building emphasizes a connection to the coast of Maine by picking up cues from traditional boathouses.

Making Connections

The exterior is expressed as two crossing gables and is clad in durable shingles and Douglas fir beams and joists. Designed for LEED certification, the building is oriented on an east-west axis, giving the main façade a wide frontage on the water and a southern exposure for optimal use of sunlight and ocean breezes. All windows are operable, allowing both customers and staff to adjust interior temperature as needed.

For more than 40 years, SMMA has partnered with L.L.Bean working to create spaces that inspire workers, excite customers, and align with the mission and values that so deeply resonate throughout the brand—100% satisfaction, highest quality, and tremendous value.

Active Space, Passive Design

Designed with exemplary sustainability elements, the school is more than LEED-certified—it is conceived as a complex that rises organically from its site and treads lightly on the sensitive environmental context in which it exists. SMMA worked collaboratively with L.L.Bean staff to develop a vision for the facility.

The sustainable design was informed by the mantra: “Leave no trace.” The SMMA team held a charrette to explore what this principle meant in the context of a building design. The solution that emerged was a net-zero-energy-ready facility that optimized performance through passive design.

The site topography allowed the building to be nestled into the hillside with an east-west oriented axis and excellent southern exposure. This orientation was also optimal for the views of Brickyard Cove and capturing cool breezes for natural ventilation. The south facing shed roof was angled to optimize solar production and shade the glazing on the south façade. Exposed concrete slab floors provide thermal mass for heat storage coupled with efficient radiant heating and energy recovery systems.

The careful use of glazing allows for abundant daylight without compromising thermal performance, and efficient LED lighting supplements the natural light as needed. The enclosure is super-insulated to reduce heat transfer, and exposed structural systems minimize the consumption of building materials. The design also incorporated rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses including toilet flushing and equipment cleaning.