Walker | Macy

Landscape architecture project descriptions for web

Dry Falls overview
Walker Macy performs landscape architecture, urban design and planning for projects in a variety of contexts. It has played an instrumental role in defining the character of many beloved sites throughout the west coast, from the Columbia River Gorge down through Sacramento and beyond.

When the company was redesigning its website, it wanted to reinvent its voice as well. The goal was to adopt the tone of a magazine with sophisticated, relaxed storytelling that weaves a fascinating story. I was hired to create the short and long description for each project. The list included interpretive sites, schools, universities, hospitals, waterfronts, urban centers and more.

Samples below. To get in touch, click:

Dry Falls Visitor Center

Coulee City, Washington

Sculpted by the massive Missoula Floods, Dry Falls is arguably one of the most impressive sites on the National Geologic Trail. The visitor center presents its history, interprets the region’s natural systems and extends the visitor experience outdoors, while blending seamlessly into a harshly beautiful landscape.

Fifteen thousand years ago, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet crept across the Canadian border, buried the Pacific Northwest and built an ice dam on the Clark Fork River thousands of feet thick.

Lake Missoula was born. Yet as the sheet began to melt, the dam began to break, and cataclysmic floods burst across the region. In one instance, the whole lake was emptied in a matter of days. Water ten times the volume of all the rivers of the world tore channels, sculpted immense cataracts, stripped topsoil, left giant gravel deposits. Until the Cordilleran’s final retreat, these floods reinvented the landscape again and again.

The Dry Falls Visitor Center sits among the floods’ mighty footprints, circled by a living exhibit of massive geologic events. With interpretive illustrations, thematic story lines, aerial views and simulations of the floods’ power, it takes visitors back in time. It also draws them outdoors, tying these interpretive elements into their own direct experience of the place itself.

Walker Macy created the master plan, carefully orienting trails, overlooks, parking, roads and picnic area to build an implicit connection between the built and natural environment. The Visitor Center is low-built, with a palette of native stone and plants to guide its architecture and site development, blending into the fabric of this harsh and rocky landscape.

In fact, Dry Falls serves as the hub of the Ice Age Floods interpretive network, expected to draw thousands of visitors every year. Standing on the doorstep of the National Geologic Trail, it offers both a framework and a starting point, inviting visitors to immerse themselves intellectually, physically and emotionally in the story of the Ice Age Floods.

Brookside Children’s Garden

Cranbrook Elementary School

The Cranbrook elementary school garden invites students to touch nature while exploring science, art and sustainability. Its granite pavers, etched with native species and historic quotes, meander along a woodland landscape designed to attract predator-prey activity, and inspire hands-and-knees investigation, macro-photography and outdoor learning at large.

The Brookside children’s garden invites students to investigate the living world and touch nature. It’s part of the Cranbrook Educational Community, a nationally recognized college preparatory school on a campus of 315 acres, founded on the philosophy that everyone has a duty to give back – and also to give forward, to future generations.

The garden embodies this ethos: it’s an outdoor classroom used for studying art, sustainability and science. However, when the design team met in 2004, it was only a narrow strip of land overgrown with invasive species, its trees diseased by flooding. Its transformation took the collaboration of teachers, parents and volunteers, students, artisans and contractors.

Walker Macy worked with artist Larry Kirkland to create a story walkway and tricycle path for the garden. Staggered granite pavers meander south-east, following a restored riverbank of native trees and flowers. These pavers create spaces for study and conversation in multi-color rosa granite, echoing the colors of the Meeting House adjacent. Intricately etched with native animals, plants, bugs and flowers, the path tells the story of the regional food chain and nature’s regenerative cycles.

To encourage hands-and-knees exploration, the design includes tunnels of plants, or crawling beds, with a soft understory and arching canopy. Elsewhere, miniature species present opportunities for macro-photography and articulation. Other plants are placed strategically to attract predator-prey activity, or chosen for their ability to capture the processes of nature and the qualities of the region.

Brookside teachers regularly incorporate the garden’s features into their lesson plans. With artisanal craftsmanship and sustainable design, the Cranbrook Story Garden promises to give forward for generations.