Rustic architecture is typically associated with mountain-area tourist lodges and the buildings and structures constructed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The NPS played a prominent role in promoting this style or method of design, not only through its association with Civilian Conservation Corps projects, but also with the issuance of several publications in the 1930s. The NPS published a three-volume study of Rustic park and recreation structures in 1938 written by architectural consultant Albert H. Good. Many of the period publications, or the designs of the structures within, were the creations of Herbert Maier. Maier was the architect/landscape architect who headed the NPS district that included Denver. Through the development of the NPS’s design philosophy, he played a key role in promoting the principles of Rustic park architecture during the 1920s and 1930s. Maier assembled design booklets containing examples of features built in a variety of national, state, and local parks, with the explicit intent these designs not be copied but instead adapted to the local topography, conditions, and cultural influences. He expected variations and diversity based on each site’s unique cultural and natural history. The designs were therefore united by principle, not by architectural prototype.
Maier’s principles were based on the use of native materials, and indigenous or “frontier” forms and construction methods. This design philosophy coincidentally meshed with the goals of the WPA relief work program. His basic design principles included: screening; the use of indigenou