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. Seated on a massive concrete base that stepped down into the grade below, two upper levels exemplified the “New Formalism” style in 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 goal of the project: wrap clean, fresh space around exhibits; integrate supportive amenities; upgrade infrastructure; and correct lingering issues with the exterior envelope. In doing so, the designers demonstrated commitment to protecting the center’s “quirky” architectural features. Today, daylight illuminates the main level and upper levels, highlighting the central rotunda’s terrazzo tile, glass, and slender steel accents. A new café with indoor dining, outdoor plaza with viewing platform, and office/meeting space enhance exhibit space and small theater at the entry level. Below ground, two more floors contain additional exhibits and a space to view fish. Specialty lighting, acoustic treatments, and minimalistic design work in concert to showcase the museum-like experience.