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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Farewell, Balfour-Guthrie Building

by Jonah Cohen

After 16 years, Hacker has vacated the Balfour-Guthrie Building and moved to its next iteration, which in many ways is a perfect symbol for our successful leadership transition that has taken place over the last five years. This is an emotional milestone for a few of us, especially me.

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Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders

by Stefee Knudsen

How do we cultivate our future leaders? It’s a core question for educators and one that ultimately influences the design of schools. Two projects in Portland, the Oregon Episcopal School’s Lower School and the French American International School’s new Gilkey International Middle School, illustrate how new environments can help to advance institutional missions.

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Hackers = Makers

by Scott Barton-Smith

If you’ve been to Hacker’s office in the past year and a half, you probably noticed art on the walls of our building’s vestibule and reception area. This rotating Makers exhibit showcases the off-hours work of our multi-talented team. By day we are architects, interior designers, and talented support personnel; by night we are artists. What began as a desire to exhibit some of our creative endeavors outside of work has turned into an amazing get-to-know-you. Every couple of months, a new batch of artistic expression graces our walls and gives us insight into our colleagues’ broad talents, inspiration, and personalities. Twelve Hackers have already displayed their art since October 2015 and there is no sign of it stopping! Scroll through for a sampling…

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Hacker Builds!

by Garrett Martin

Our website typically shows you beautiful photos of our completed projects, or equally beautiful renderings of our projects “on the boards.” Have you ever wondered what happens in-between, or when those renderings will finally take actual form? Despite how it may appear sometimes, it all doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye or under cover of darkness.

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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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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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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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