Over time, the center has become a destination for learning

In 1962 the Rocky Reach Visitor Center rose from the west bank of the Columbia River, overlooking the spillway of the Rocky Reach Dam and fish ladder toward the powerhouse. Designed in the “New Formalism” style (akin to Mid-Century Modern), the building established an iconic presence, featuring a folded plate roof, radiused balconies and double height windows to capture expansive riverfront views. A symbol of pride for Chelan County communities, the center has remained a tourist destination for over 60 years, drawing a seasonal crowd of tourists, students, and locals.

Today, Chelan County PUD is breathing new life into the building, extending the reach of the renamed Rocky Reach Discovery Center as a venue for entertainment and education. In support of the center’s recent rebrand, a spring 2020 renovation will refresh the structure, its systems and amenities, wrapping clean space around new exhibits. The grand re-opening of the Rocky Reach Discovery Center will celebrate a new identity as a place for year-round, 21st century-style learning featuring exhibit content that brings life to the history of the region, significance of the river, and evolution of the PUD as an integral contributor to the region’s heritage and way of life.

The unique architectural features of the Discovery Center will be protected by the designers’ commitment to maintaining the period aesthetic. Bringing a sense of lightness to the building, the upper two levels of the four-story structure feature a civic-minded materials palette that includes slender steel, terrazzo tile, glass and hardwood accents. A modest expansion will contain an updated café with an indoor dining area, covered exterior dining, and upper-floor office space for administrative staff. At the main level, the café, restrooms and support space will share a floor plate with introductory exhibits and small theater, offering a place for guests to sit or alternatively entice them onward to the enjoy lower levels devoted to education. The two below-ground floors, architecturally defined by bare concrete and painted masonry, will contain exhibits and fish viewing. Upgraded finishes, additional restrooms and a delightful signage wayfinding system will enhance the patron experience. Spartan detailing and limited fenestration will help focus attention toward informative, interactive displays.

Outside, a dynamic entry approach will increase the visibility of the main entry and appearance of the building overall. As the most prominent exterior feature, a new double-story, translucent canopy will offer shelter for riverfront viewing, outdoor dining and open-air exhibits.