The nation’s second largest waterfall by volume will soon reopen to the public for the first time in over 150 years. Architecture and landscape firm Snøhetta recently revealed new renderings for their designs to restore public access to Oregon’s Willamette Falls. A mix of adaptive reuse and new build, the design will renovate the 22-acre site’s existing industrial buildings and add a new ecological riverwalk.
Industrial infrastructure has cut the breathtaking Willamette Falls from public access for over a century, however, a redevelopment scheme for the area sparked newfound interest in reclaiming and rehabilitating the landscape. Snøhetta, along with Mayer/Reed, inc. and DIALOG, won an international design competition to reimagine the falls and collaborated with the community to refine their proposals.
“The new design treats the whole site as a single landscape, with a network of promenades and lofted pathways that lace through the physical strata of the site, immersing visitors in a tactile experience that celebrates the changing water level, the feeling of the spray on your skin, the dramatic play of light and the roar and presence of the falls,” says Snøhetta. Key to the design is the new riverwalk that will “serve as a portal to the Northwest’s collective history” and connect Oregon City’s historic downtown to the crest of the fall. The riverwalk will feature a mix of materials, from ancient basalt and wood to industrial steel, as well as layered references to the site’s natural, ecological, cultural, and geological contexts.
In addition to restoring public access, the design seeks to rehabilitate the landscape with the removal of select industrial structures. Five unique habitats will be restored and special attention paid to endangered species. Greater access will also be provided to the five confederated tribes who annually fish the waters. The Willamette Falls riverwalk conceptual design will be unveiled at a public event tomorrow and construction is expected to begin June 2018.
Images via Snøhetta