snøhetta has released its proposed design for the public spaces at willamette falls riverwalk in oregon — home to the second largest flowing waterfall in the united states. after being chosen as the architectural practice to re-imagine the historic site, news of the firm’s involvement was announced back in 2015. having been closed to the public for more than a century, once the project is completed, visitors will have the opportunity to experience the waterfall up-close, as well an abundance of endangered species and diverse flora and fauna. the ambitious project is expected to begin construction in june 2018.
the woolen mill alcove and public yard
all images © snøhetta
snøhetta is in charge of transforming and enhancing the 22-acre site’s historic basalt topography, and reconnecting oregon city to its spectacular waterfront. remnants of the site’s industrial past still exist and, through sensitive site editing, the design will provide public access through a series of nationally important structures that represent the industrial history of the pacific northwest. the project has been divided into six parts.
the woolen mill alcove and public yard (above image) will involve the demolishing of the damaged industrial fill and structural platforms in order to restore region-specific ecosystems. this particular alcove reveals the woolen mill’s historic relationship with the river and source of water power. to support public access the walls of the pipe chase are selectively removed, leaving behind lower portions of the structure re-used as a porch-like promenade at the water’s edge. the decision to remove the structure lessens the impact on river ecosystems, while retaining its remnants allows people to mentally reconstruct what once existed.
the woolen mill overlook
the woolen mill overlook will serve as the public terminus of main street, offering 360° views of the dam, the historic boiler complex, the restored river alcove, and the public yard. snøhetta plans to selectively remove existing structures and platforms, revealing the full height of the dam for it to become a focal point of the riverwalk. an elevated explorer trail connects the yard area to the boiler plant complex, providing interpretive opportunities focused on the restored alcove habitat and the historic woolen mill foundation.
the mill H grove and overlook
visitors will be able to see the falls and river valley from angles they’ve never seen before. the structure of the existing mill will be peeled away and replaced by a reinforced steel and concrete structure serving as an overlook. the open structure’s concrete foundation will be re-purposed to hold soil to support a grove of conifer tree species, referencing the site’s historic wood-based paper-making processes. the upper levels will offer elevated vantage points, while the lower levels draw visitors to other important parts of the masterplan.
the main attraction, the waterfall itself, will be experienced from a two-storey viewing platform. above, a new platform opens up a 360° view of the surrounding region. at the same time, seating and places to reflect will be available, with two routes of entry easing circulation. in addition to the panoramic, outward-looking views, the platform design focuses visitors inward, with openings allowing experiential glimpses into the industrial turbine chamber below. at its lowest level, a few steps drop down and the shelter of the upper platform pulls away, leaving the power, mist, and exposure of the location to ‘play upon the senses’.
the mill O visitor center and pipe chase porch
visible from main street and commanding a presence from the water — mill O — the historic extension to the oregon city woolen mill, will become the riverwalk’s visitor center. the exterior shell of the building is reinforced and retained, while the interior is opened up to make a large public hall. large portions of the ground floor spills out to the adjacent public yard, offering flexibility and all-weather use. the western end of the building spills down to the lower level creating a theater. this flexible location will be used for events, such as concerts and classes, but also forms a sheltered place to watch the river go by.
the clarifier landscape and PGE dam promenade
a sequence of elevated explorer trail pathways extends south, circling around ‘the clarifier’: a water quality treatment structure that was once used to treat waste water from the paper making process. this outdoor landscape will feature oregon oak trees, plants, and habitats that offer visitors an area for picnics and relaxation.
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