EHDD worked with Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on the renovation and expansion of Goldendale Observatory State Park in southwestern Washington. The Goldendale Observatory is a state park heritage site perched on top of a 2,100 ft hill surrounded by scrub oaks with expansive views of the Columbia River and Mt. Hood. This certified International Dark Sky Park offers access to one of the largest publicly accessible telescopes in the nation. The main telescope was the brainchild of four Vancouver, Washington-area amateur astronomers who designed and built the instrument in the 1960s over six years, with help from Clark College and its students. Since opening to the public in 1973, the Goldendale Observatory has become increasingly popular with amateur astronomers, school groups, and fascinated tourists to where it had outgrown the previous facility.
The new, multi-phased project included a complete upgrade of the original telescope and the renovation/addition of the original building. The new Observatory offers expanded learning and presentation space that houses a new self-guided interpretive program and new interpretive content.
The project design draws inspiration from round and elliptical orbits, the Milky Way spinning overhead, and the gravitational attraction that binds our solar system. The self-guided visitor experience begins outside of the building, where the landscape design and the nighttime observation spaces work in tandem to draw visitors into the interior interpretive spaces. The Observatory resembles an ellipse and circle split with a glazed band at the east and west gap to create the entry. The landscape design revolves around this visual connection and features circling paths, observation platforms, and native plants shaped around the Observatory’s dynamic forms. A ramp descends to the north on the interior stepped levels, providing tiered seating for presentations and an easy-to-understand flow through the interpretive content. Clad in locally sourced Shou Sugi Ban charred cedar siding, the exterior of the structure also features vertical aluminum fins that provide directional awareness. The Shou Sugi Ban charring technique offers a maintenance-free, insect repellent, water repellent, fire-resistant building skin that feels intimately connected to the surrounding landscape and the night sky above.