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This interpretive center and museum are housed together in a building ensemble located on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge in Central Oregon. The Gorge is not only central to the region’s cultural heritage, settlement patterns and economic development; it is a natural phenomenon of unparalleled beauty connecting Oregon’s eastern desert landscape with its major western cities and eventually, the Pacific Ocean.
The entire project incorporates twenty-two acres of natural landscape including trails, overlooks, orchards, gardens, picnic areas and a pond. The Center introduces visitors to the natural and human history of the Gorge and its influential position in the region’s past, present and future. The building unites the simple dignity of vernacular building forms, integral to their landscape, with the stateliness required of a public gallery and regional tourist attraction.
This is a place of both symbolic content – celebrating the Gorge – and of orientation and meeting. The nave-like great hall is a clear public space, its symbolism further enhanced by the inlaid marble in the tile floor, mapping the course of the Columbia River as it winds through the Gorge. A kind of transept or cross axis to this nave occurs, cutting across the primary walls, leading at one end to the informal gathering place of the café, and at the other to outdoor interpretive trails and exhibits.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum received a 2001 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Honor Award, a 1997 Portland Chapter Citation Award, and a 1997 AIA Portland Chapter Craftsmanship Award.
Mass Timber, Timber-Frame / Post and Beam, Heavy Timber Decking