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ROCK ISLAND SILICON SMELTER

Location:  Rock Island, Washington
Type:  In Progress

In 1942, Ohio Ferro Alloys constructed a plant in Rock Island, WA, near East Wenatchee, to process ferrosilicon (a precursor to making aluminum) for the war effort. The plant was in continual use, and a dominant part of the landscape, until it was finally closed in 2003. Since then, it has sat vacant, a prominent form on the east bank of the Columbia River, straddled between a historic BNSF rail bridge that spans the river and the first dam on the Columbia, Rock Island Dam. The Port of Douglas County has initiated a study to create a Waterfront and Innovation District with the former smelter facility at the center of the 20 acre redevelopment site.

Graham Baba Architects was tasked with determining the potential to adaptively reuse the two primary, former industrial buildings on the site: the 30,000 sf furnace building and the 7,500 sf materials storage building. The unique, cathedral like scale and proportion of the furnace building coupled with its prominent location overlooking the Columbia River make the building incredibly enticing for reuse. Potential programmatic elements were explored including a mix of office space, focused on technology research and development, education classrooms, a restaurant and brewery, a hotel with indoor and outdoor event spaces and waterfront activities.

While the existing steel structure of the buildings is in remarkably good shape, the structures lack any insulation or glazed windows and the existing skin is in decline. The preliminary design calls for re-skinning the building and adding glazing, especially on the west side where views to the river and landscape are stunning. A proposed glass box bisects the building, providing a prominent east-west visual and physical connection through the building and to the waterfront park beyond. Unique features of the existing building, such as the continuous vent at the roof ridge and the structural knee braces on the east façade, are emphasized in the design in order to take advantage of this unique industrial form and update it for use by future generations.

Images:  Graham Baba Architects