Excellence on the Waterfront Confluence Project


Portland, Oregon
– Located along the Columbia River with sites in Oregon and Washington, Confluence Project has earned the prestigious top Honor Award in the Waterfront Center’s 2009 “Excellence on the Waterfront” Awards Program.  The Waterfront Center’s annual “Excellence on the Waterfront” awards competition was founded in 1987 to recognize the best examples of high quality waterfront work by communities, developers and design firms from around the world.

The Confluence Project was formed in 2002 to create seven works of art on sites of cultural and historical significance—to re-envision our relationship with the Land, Water and People who live along the Columbia River.  Each of the project’s sites features an art installation by Maya Lin that interprets the area’s ecology and history, encouraging the visitor to reflect on how the surroundings have changed over time.  Initially conceived to mark the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the sites reference passages from the Lewis and Clark journals.  Each of the Confluence Project’s sites is linked to water, recognizing that the Columbia River System has formed the backbone of Northwest culture and human settlement for hundreds of years.

The vision of Confluence Project is to foster sustainability through artistry.  Each site’s design uses materials that contribute to its sustainability.  Three of the Confluence Project’s seven sites are complete. Maya Lin collaborated with GreenWorks, a Portland-based landscape architecture firm on the Cape Disappointment State Park and Sandy River Delta sites.  Jones and Jones, a Seattle-based landscape architecture firm collaborated with Maya Lin on the Vancouver Land Bridge.

Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco, Washington, where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean, has four distinctive artistic elements. One stunning piece is a large block of basalt used as a fish-cleaning table, on which Ms. Lin engraved the traditional Chinook story of creation. A trail leads to an amphitheater. An oyster shell bed surrounds upended drift logs at the forest edge, providing a place for quiet reflection. A piece of land buried under a parking lot for decades now flourishes with native plants and a water overlook.

Vancouver Land Bridge, in Washington State, is a beautiful, bold intervention, enabling pedestrians to cross over a busy highway to make a connection to the Columbia at the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. River vistas invite people to a River Walk.

Designed by Johnpaul Jones, the bridge itself is a gentle curve covered in soil and native plantings. A ceremonial First Walk in 2008 attracted 3,500 people. The land bridge is at once an engineering achievement, a work of art and provides a storyboard contained in historic and explanatory panels.

The Bird Blind at Sandy River Delta in Troutdale, Ore., is an elegant and functional artwork, built of black locust and perched on a hilltop overlooking the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia Rivers. A total of 18 months went into researching the most sustainable wood. Each upright board is engraved with names of animals that Lewis and Clark encountered.  There is a 1.2-mile trail, built by volunteers, and reforested areas in this National Park Service area. A cooperative network of Federal, state and local governments, working with civic groups, collaborated to bring about this project.

The other sites are Celilo Park near the Dalles, Oregon; Sacajawea State Park in Pasco, Wash. at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers; Chief Timothy Park at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers in Clarkston, Wash., and Ridgefield, Wash., where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers are joined.

GreenWorks is providing landscape architectural services for the Confluence Project, working with artist Maya Lin in the development of 6 of the 7 project sites in Oregon and Washington.  The firm is responsible for site developments in support of Ms. Lin’s artwork: viewpoints and overlooks, trails, parking, comfort stations, fish cleaning stations, information kiosks and other site facilities. GreenWorks is responsible for all detailed site design as well as leading an interdisciplinary team of engineers, designers, architects and regulatory professionals in the development of these sites.

In selecting the Confluence Project for the 2009 Excellence on the Waterfront Honor Award the jury noted the rich joining of art, landscape architecture and design, the major public outreach entailed and the prodigious amount of fund-raising required. There was also appreciation that the public agencies involved did not, as one juror put it, “cut out the magic and poetry from the project.”

The jury also recognized Confluence in the Schools, a three-year arts education program that linked students and teachers with professional artists, Native American tribes and community partners. It aimed to encourage students to understand the relationship between the Columbia and the tribes that first inhabited the Pacific Northwest. In all over 5,000 students took part.

The non-profit Confluence Project is based in Vancouver, Washington and is led by Executive Director Jane Jacobsen.  For more information, visit http://www.confluenceproject.org/ You may also contact Jane Jacobsen or Walter Cook at the Confluence Project office: 360. 693.0123.

Based in Washington DC, Waterfront Center is a non-profit educational organization, formed in 1981 in the belief that waterfronts — where the land meets the ocean, bay, lake, river or canal — are unique, finite resources.

The vital characteristic that separates waterfronts from other areas in a community is the relationship to water.  For additional information go to http://www.waterfrontcenter.org/ design firms to strive for well-designed undertakings. Entries are taken from around the world

GreenWorks is a Portland-based landscape architecture firm with a practice focused on sustainable design. GreenWorks specializes in artistic urban stormwater projects and is developing and improving ecological approaches that conserve, clean, recycle and celebrate water.  The firm is working on some of the region’s most innovative and creative projects including The Confluence Project with Maya Lin.  Other projects include the award-winning Headwaters at Tryon Creek in SE Portland, RiverEast Center along the Willamette River, and Tanner Springs Park in Portland’s Pearl District. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified projects include the RiverEast Center, Washougal Town Center, OSU Kelly Engineering Building, American Honda; and Toyota Terminal Four Facility.  More information on GreenWorks can be found at http://greenworkspc.wordpress.com/

Photo Credits:

Sandy Bird Blind – The Confluence Project

Cape Disappointment Fish Cleaning Table – GreenWorks

One thought on “Excellence on the Waterfront Confluence Project

Leave a Reply