After a devastating flood in 2007, the mayor of Vernonia asked Architects Without Borders-Oregon to work with residents of this small town in the state's coast range. At the time AWB provided architecturally sensitive design concepts for raising existing houses above flood levels so as to qualify homeowners for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. Eight years later the city has again asked AWB for design assistance, this time with plans for a
multi-use park shelter at the site where Vernonia Middle School stood before the flood.
With the support of Andrew Niemi, structural engineer from St. Helens, Oregon, AWB has developed a preliminary design, recently approved by Vernonia's Parks Committee. While meeting FEMA requirements for new construction in the floodplain, the design also incorporates the community's wish to build the shelter from old-growth fir planks and timbers salvaged from the town's ruined elementary school.
"Building from a prescribed set of pieces adds an additional challenge to the design effort," says AWB member John Blumthal. "Fortunately, the city saved a workable mix of larger beams, medium-size timbers and rough-cut 2x14 planks that gave us some good options for the design."
Niemi and AWB will now produce final drawings for the structure. Construction will be funded by a State of Oregon grant.