Relics Park Visitor Center

by Andrew Hastings

The design of the Relics Park Visitor Center was inspired by the spirit of the site itself. The decomposing buildings, while in some ways old and dilapidated, relics of a bygone era, add richness, history, and texture to the site. To fully embrace this richness, the Visitor Center is designed around two of the existing buildings, the flower mill and the feed mill. The new structure is made of corten steel that rusts intentionally, thereby protecting the steel from corrosion, while also mirroring the aging materials of the original structures. Inspired by the peeling paint found at the Relics Park site, the envelope of the building is composed of corten panels that act as louvers. The panels are regular in size and shape, but rotate and peel back like peeling paint, to let in light while shading from harsh direct sunlight. Inside the new structure, exposed wood provides warmth, even on Portland’s cloudy days.

The sustainability of the Visitor Center is demonstrated most clearly by the cross section. The corten panels allow light and air to flow through, providing for natural cross ventilation and natural daylight. The structure’s envelope, composed of recycled steel, and the engineering will allow it to be a net zero building.

The Visitor Center’s design connects two seemingly contradictory aspects of Relics Park—the history and future. The new structure connects two historic buildings so that visitors can actually step foot into these spaces to experience Portland’s history tactilely, while also learning about Portland’s present and future. As the fourth park in a series (following Jamison, Tanner
Springs, and Fields Parks), Relics Park also acts and a bridge between the Pearl District and the river. In this sense, it connects the two seemingly incompatible environments of Northwest Portland—the natural and the urban.

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