From the Vaults: Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

by Sarah Bell

I recently came across this Oregonian article, and was immediately brought back to 1997 on the opening day for this museum and interpretive center located in The Dalles, Oregon. I’ll get to the building in a moment, but first let’s just consider that its location – on a bluff in the Columbia River Gorge – is nothing short of transcendent. The power of this place, and the 10,000-year history of the Columbia Basin, is all felt on this site. And almost 20 years after my first experience at this place, I can still feel the emotion of opening day of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum.

Let’s travel back to before the project was built (not too far back – I don’t pretend to have near the knowledge to honor the site’s true history, though there are many resources for that, including the Center & Museum’s website). But let’s look back to the time before THA Architecture (then Thomas Hacker & Associates) was involved: This project was conceived as two separate facilities – the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and the Wasco County Museum. In fact, we interviewed with both clients independently and won both commissions. We quickly recognized that each institution could get more if they combined resources, and while it took a little convincing (we had the federal government contributing to the Discovery Center and private funds for the County Museum), the promise of a “great hall” connecting the two facilities (with a powerful connection to the Gorge and the Klickitat Hills in Washington State across the river) won them over.

The result is a building made of strong, yet simple forms that respond to the powerful landscape. Basalt walls push out into the landscape so the building feels like it grows out of the land. One of the most significant moves in my opinion was the decision to rotate the plan so that the great hall (called the River Gallery) looked out to a (usually dry) river bed in the Klickitat Hills. Doug Macy, landscape architect of Walker Macy, was responsible for this significant decision – as the logical decision would have been to site the building directly perpendicular to the river. But Doug said, and was right, that if you angled the building in that way, you would be looking at old trailers on the other side of the river. The chosen angle, and the view it captures from the River Gallery, creates the immediate experience of being submerged in the landscape rather than set apart from it.

So back to that opening day in the summer of 1997. Though it was almost 20 years ago, I remember a few things very clearly. The wind blowing through the gorge, the acres upon acres of restored landscape brought back to its purpose and glory, the speeches by everyone who had touched and was touched by the project, and the peacefulness of the place.

CRGDC_1 (Large)

CRGDC_2 (Large)

CRGDC_3 (Large)

For additional photos of the project, visit our website.

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1253

What Pro Bono Work Has Taught Us

by Audrey Alverson

Pro bono architecture: Why do we do it?

Hacker has long been a signatory of the 1+ Program, which challenges designers to dedicate 1% or more of their time to pro bono service – but through trial and error over the years, we often found it challenging to bring this work to fruition. After a few fits and starts, and some mostly small-scale projects and studies, last year we decided to put some teeth to our commitment to pro bono service. Through this process, we’ve learned that the problem was never a lack of desire or good intentions, but more so a lack of planning.

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1245

Nurturing Growth in Lents Town Center

by Garrett Martin

On Sunday October 23rd of last year, we joined Bremik Construction and the Portland Development Commission to strike golden shovels into the ground and begin construction on the 9101 SE Foster project, a mixed-use multi-family building in the heart of Lents Town Center.

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Why Hacker Started Paying for Parental Leave

by Sarah Bell

This year, Hacker implemented a new paid parental leave policy, covering six weeks at full salary for birth mothers and about four and ½ weeks full salary for a spouse of the parent who gives birth (adoptive parents get the same). This is in addition to the flexible paid time off granted to every Hacker employee.

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A Saturday with Lou

by Scott Barton-Smith

Nearly half of the Hacker team caravanned north to attend the final day of the Bellevue Arts Museum’s retrospective Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture on April 30th. Although the exhibit includes video interviews of notable architects enthusing Kahn’s work, we had a more interactive guide. Our firm founder Thom Hacker gave us a personalized tour of the exhibit, which includes several projects on which Thom collaborated with his mentor “Lou.” The exhibit features many models and drawings prepared by Kahn’s office spanning projects from the Esherick House to more well know works like The Salk Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka. The exhibit even includes a full scale reproduction of the famous window seat designed for the Fisher house. Much of this material has not seen the light of day since Kahn’s death and it is remarkable that the large yet delicate cardboard, clay, and wood models survived.

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1198

University of Wyoming Visual Arts Facility Wins COTE Award

by Nic Smith

Hacker is a proud recipient of a 2016 AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects award for University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Facility (VAF), a pioneering LEED Platinum facility that has shaped a new approach to health, safety, and sustainability in arts education. The 80,000-SF building consolidates the University’s fine arts program from its scattered locations, establishing a central component of the campus’s new arts district. It also marks a turning point in the campus’s thinking about environmental responsibility. Read more

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From the Vaults: High Desert Museum

by Sarah Bell

When the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon’s New Home had its dedication last year, I drove to Bend for the day with my two youngest boys, who were both under 5 years old. I arrived several hours before the dedication with both boys needing to expend energy built up over the 3-hour car ride. Not having planned on it, I took them to the High Desert Museum – not because I wanted to show them a Hacker building, but because I knew it would wear them out.

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1183

Designing for Design Schools: What type of collaboration space works?

by Becca Cavell

We’re excited to be working right now with UC Davis on the renovation of the north wing of Cruess Hall – a rather industrial 1950s building that will house screening rooms, labs, and maker spaces for the Cinema & Digital Media and Industrial Design programs. Some of these spaces will be quite industrial themselves, and seem a fitting use for the currently vacant building.  As we begin to look for case studies to inform our work, our client shared this video from Stanford’s D-School, showing 10 days in the life of the D’s central collaboration space. It’s time-lapse, and takes just four minutes to view – and it demonstrates how a very utilitarian space can be the beating heart of an institution if you plan it right, furnish it right, and relax a bit.

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1161

Denny Hall Finally Gets Its Due

by Stephanie Shradar

At the University of Washington, Denny Hall has been awaiting revitalization for nearly a decade. During that time, Hacker has been working on and off again to get UW the final product. The project has gone through funding stalls and starts; the design firm has gone through two name changes; and the building has patiently awaited its new core.

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Hacker is Carbon Neutral

by Sarah Post-Holmberg

Hacker was founded on the idea that architecture should be in service to community. For over three decades the firm has designed enduring spaces that inspire people to contribute to positive cultural change. This guiding vision extends beyond humanity to encompass the natural world and the diversity of species it supports. Over the years, Hacker has developed an aesthetic for buildings that interact dynamically with their surroundings and make humble use of the earth’s resources. Through research, conference engagement, and continuing education, we continue to refine our design process, detailing, and material choices to reflect our priority of preserving the well-being of all life systems on our planet.

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1139

Building Community: PCC Cascade’s New Student Union

by Nick Hodges

As higher-education institutions rapidly adapt their curricula and campuses to accommodate new models of learning, the line between places for studying and socializing, learning and leisure time has become blurred, to say the least. We’ve written about how that transition has prompted big changes in the conception and design of libraries, but it’s also led colleges and universities to reconsider the traditional role of the student union.

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