World Forestry Center
The World Forestry Center is located in Washington Park, a heavily forested 458 acre public park in the hills of Portland, Oregon - the ideal location for an educational non-profit whose mission is to create and inspire champions of sustainable forestry. Through their campus, exhibits, and programs, World Forestry Center works to build healthy connections between people and communities and the forest ecosystems that we all rely on around the world.
The World Forestry Center’s campus includes three iconic, octagonal buildings designed by renowned Northwest regionalist architect John Storrs and originally constructed in the 1970s. In the height of their time, Storrs’ original buildings were a beautiful showcase of timber construction, and LEVER’s expansion aims to honor this legacy of craftsmanship and innovation. At the heart of the expansion is the new Experience Center, a wood-clad Mass Timber cultural center that extends the campus all the way down the slope, putting the activity of campus on display, and reconnecting the World Forest Center to the transit and pedestrian routes it shares with the neighboring Oregon zoo.
The Experience Center is a flexible, dynamic building that celebrates the beauty of wood and serves as its own exhibition of regional wood products and innovative mass timber technology. It increases the World Forestry Center’s capacity to welcome more visitors and host larger events, with a black box exhibition space and an adjoining outdoor pavilion. The pavilion’s mass timber canopy offers shelter from the Pacific Northwest elements, replacing a semi-permanent tent that previously housed outdoor events and programs. The Experience Center’s soft angles respond to the geometries of the Storrs’ buildings, framing views across the plaza and to the surrounding forest.
Mass Plywood Panels (or MPP) clad in locally sourced and custom milled Cedar siding are used as an innovative exterior wall assembly, paired with a timber curtain wall system to create a building fully wrapped in wood. This effect continues throughout the interiors, with MPP floor and roof panels, timber columns, and glulam beams. The roof structure in the Experience Center features salvage wood glue-laminated beams from the small office building that was previously on this site.
LEVER’s campus expansion helps to reinforce connections between the World Forestry Center, the forests and trails of Washington Park, and neighboring cultural institutions. It also helps to restore the connections across campus, revitalizing indoor and outdoors spaces and using the landscape to create a more immersive experience. Layers of brutalist-era concrete are removed to create a lushly renovated plaza that is accessible and easy to navigate, giving visitors a clear sense of direction and inviting them to explore. The original buildings by John Storrs, perched on the hillside, receive light interior renovations and continue to provide meeting, event, and administrative space. The existing museum building - the largest of the three - is repositioned as a Visitor Center for the Park, and remains the home of World Forestry Center’s permanent exhibits.