About 11 miles as the crow flies from Portland, Ore., Willamette Falls churns out a whopping 37,403 gallons of water each second, according to the World Waterfall Database. That makes it the second-biggest waterfall in North America by volume (Niagara Falls takes the top spot, at 750,000 gallons each second).
It sounds like a place tourists would flock to, you'd think. But there hasn't been public access to the falls in years, and, after a long industrial history at the site, the last company there closed in 2011. "For more than a century, Willamette Falls has been the most spectacular place we don't visit," says the narrator in a promotional video for the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a joint effort by Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro, and the State of Oregon, as well as Falls Legacy, the owner of the recently closed paper mill, to redevelop the area.
Today, it was announced that Portland-based Mayer/Reed, Canadian firm Dialog, and the New York and San Francisco offices of Snøhetta won the design competition for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk, part of the overall Legacy Project plan. The finalists for the competition were announced in March, and also included: James Corner Field Operations, Place Studio, and the Miller Hull Partnership; and Walker Macy and Thomas Balsley Associates.
"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, in a press release. "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."
The material palette on the winning team's design boards takes cues from the site's history, and includes steel, concrete, masonry, wood, flora and fauna, water, and basalt. These designs are not the final ones, which will include "an extensive public engagement process," according to a press release.
Note: While reporting this story, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project relaunched its website, so we've linked to a few cached versions of the old website.