The design that was recently announced to the public reveals a complex two-year design process that was led by the international firm Snøhetta, in partnership with Mayer/Reed and DIALOG. The visionary plan will allow visitors to rediscover the full height of the falls and experience its rugged shoreline. This will allow Oregon City to be reconnected to its spectacular waterfront while uncovering the 22-acre site’s historic basalt topography. Construction is expected to begin in June 2018.
Oregon City’s historic downtown will serve as the entrance to the riverwalk, which will end at the crest of the falls. The architects explain, "The riverwalk will serve as a portal to the Northwest’s collective history, reviving a former industrial site through its aggregated layers of natural, ecological, cultural, and geological history."
Conceived as a "sequence of islands," the entire site will be treated as a single landscape, with a network of promenades and lofted pathways that are designed to immerse visitors in a tactile experience that celebrates the changing water level, the spray of the water, the dramatic play of light, and the roar of the falls.
The design team faced a whole host of challenges in order to accommodate the many needs specific to the site. The location is home to endangered species and diverse flora and fauna that are in need of protection. Additionally, the river levels typically experience a fluctuation of approximately 25 feet over the course of a year, so expert hydrologists were brought in to study the effects of extreme flooding on the new design and to help formulate a strategy to mitigate the potential extent of possible flooding. The riverwalk will also be reinforced to withstand seismic activity.
"Collectively, the riverwalk sequence opens a new chapter in the life of the site—one that reimagines Willamette Falls in its fullest, most expansive depth in nature, culture, and time," Snøhetta explains.
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