Grandfather Mountain Top Shop

Grandfather Mountain Top Shop

Linville, North Carolina


Tucked in a corner of northwest North Carolina as part of the United Nations’ Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere Reserve, Grandfather Mountain is a 300-million-year-old mountain reported to have rock formations dating back 1.2 billion years, towering at an impressive 5,946 feet above sea level. One-third of the mountain is operated by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Inc., including the Top Shop. The other two-thirds of the mountain is owned by the state of North Carolina.

SKA was selected to design a new, replacement Top Shop, which is a 6,220-square-foot, three-story retail space serving as an access point to the mile-high swinging bridge atop Grandfather Mountain, which connects two peaks. Working closely Appalachian Architecture and Greene Construction, Inc., the new space contains merchandise sales, display areas, and storage facilities and includes an elevator – which makes the swinging bridge accessible to all visitors for the first time in history.

The structure – located at 5,280 feet above sea level – is designed to withstand winds in excess of 130 mph and is constructed of concrete and steel, featuring stone recycled from the previous Top Shop facility demolished to make way for this new facility. Severe wind, cold, snow and ice and the multi-story building profile required the use of the latest construction techniques to meet the harsh weather conditions for this landmark facility situated at the peak of historic Grandfather Mountain. The extreme wind pressures, resulting from winds measured in excess of 150 mph, required the design of durable, long life cycle structure, façade and roof systems that protect the building from wind, water and sub-zero temperature damage. Structures consisted of cast-in-place concrete, steel framing and heavy-duty cold formed steel framing. Exterior façade systems of recycled natural stone, stucco, precast concrete and impact resistance window and door systems along with a unique adhered PVC single-ply membrane system mimicking a standing seam metal roof were selected to meet the project objectives identified by the design architect and owner. Void of utility infrastructure, a new three-phase power, well, underground water storage tanks, and waste disposal system was included.

Owner: Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Inc.

Completion: 2010

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