The Discovery Center invites visitors to experience the Columbia in a whole new way.

Overlooking the spillway of the Rocky Reach Dam toward the majestic cliffs beyond, the Rocky Reach Visitor Center rose from the west bank of the Columbia River in 1962. Stepping down into stone, two vault-like subterranean levels married up to a pre-existing fish bi-pass structure. Two above-ground levels exemplify the “New Formalism” style, featuring a folded plate roof, radiused balconies, and double height windows capturing expansive views.

For nearly 60 years, the center drew a seasonal crowd of tourists, students, and locals.

Recently rebranded by Chelan County PUD as the Rocky Reach Discovery Center, the venue is now a place for year-round, interactive education. New exhibits share the history of the region’s first people and significance of the river in providing sustenance, beauty, transportation, commerce, and in this modern era, recreation and a source of affordable energy.

The project goal: wrap clean, fresh space around exhibits; integrate supportive amenities; upgrade infrastructure; and correct lingering issues at the exterior envelope. In doing so, the designers demonstrated commitment to maintaining the 60’s vibe, while protecting the center’s quirky architectural features.

Upon entry, visitors encounter a new entry portal wrapped in weathered steel, its circular fenestration a riff on the building’s circular elements, and stainless steel-clad wall reminiscent of fish scales. Daylight illuminates the main and upper levels, highlighting the central rotunda’s original terrazzo tile, glass, and slender steel accents. Specialty lighting, acoustic treatments, and minimalistic design enhance the museum-like experience crafted by exhibit designers, Pacific Studio.

At the café, floor to ceiling windows bring in panoramic Columbia River views for larger capacity indoor dining. The outdoor plaza now has a canopy covered viewing platform. A small theater has been added, along with meeting and office space.

Elements intended to surprise and delight: “bubble-like” penny-tiles at drinking fountains and restrooms, and blue-hued acoustic “chandelier” above a new Maker’s space.