The Maryhill Overlook is a site installation that lies on a bluff above the Columbia River Gorge, within a vast landscape of barren grasslands marked by basalt scarps. It is a harsh environment exposed to extreme wind, weather and dramatic swings of light. Constructed in 1998, the Overlook is Allied Works’ first completed Sitings Project, part of a series of conceptual proposals that seek to interpret and reveal the diverse landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.
The Overlook is organized as a single, eight-foot wide ribbon of concrete that emerges from the earth, rising and falling as it moves to the edge of the cliffs. Along its 150-foot length are eight volumes that open and close to the sky. From a distance the form dissolves and reemerges as line or plane in response to the quality of light, the shape and intensity of shadow and changing point of view. Drawing closer, held in the hollow wall, the surfaces are cut by a datum that establishes a specific reference to the body and to the surrounding landscape. As the form extends to the south, the land falls away, at first gently, then steeply down to the level of the river. Across the Columbia, a flat stone outcropping provides a focal point for the Overlook, both anchoring it to its place and extending its energy into the high desert beyond.
The Overlook serves to amplify the natural and experiential forces at work on the site. It is a demarcation that allows occupation and provides a measure of scale, distance, and time. Through a single act of making, the inherent architecture of this landscape is revealed.