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Architects and designers from around the world submitted ideas to revitalize the run-down area. The winning designers created a preliminary design that aims to revitalize the area by creating a space that honors not only the site’s history, but its natural features. “We believe that the site and the history it holds is a sublime, one-of-a-kind landscape that should not be upstaged by the hand of any designer,” said Michelle Delk, Snøhetta’s Director of Landscape Architecture. “We are inspired by the complex strata of the site and its deep cultural history. By protecting, reusing, reducing, and adding, we will integrate and amplify the site’s strata into the Riverwalk.”

Related: Snøhetta and SANAA win Budapest National Gallery/Ludwig Museum competition

Once completed, the project will contain housing, commercial and recreation spaces and will be completed with significant input from the public. “The magnetism of Willamette Falls is the genesis and spirit of place. We will provide an experiential glimpse of the fall’s power, one that transports visitors deep into history and highlights its ephemeral qualities” says Carol Mayer-Reed, Principal of Mayer/Reed.

Right now, Willamette Falls is bordered by several abandoned buildings and the Blue Heron Paper Mill, which closed in 2011. Located at the end of Main Street in Oregon City, the falls have long been culturally important, first as a significant fishing resource and gathering place for Native Americans, and later as the terminus for the Oregon trail. It was also the site of the first long-range transmission of electricity in the US. Since then, the falls have hosted paper mills, brick-making operations and lumber mills.

 + Rediscover the Falls

+ Mayer/Reed

+ Dialog Design

+ Snøhetta

Present Willamette Falls photo by Ferrous Buller, Blue Heron Mills photo by Sam Beebe