A community college in Oregon has begun construction on a new building devoted to maritime science. With it, the school hopes to solidify its position as a major industrial and marine technology center in the Pacific Northwest.
Designed by SRG Partnership, based in Portland and Seattle, the 15,500-sf Maritime Science Building will house classrooms and other instructional and building-support spaces at Clatsop Community College’s Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station (MERTS) campus. Only the fourth building on the MERTS campus, the structure will serve as an arrival point, one that strengthens the school’s maritime identity and brand.
Outside, cantilevers on both ends of the building create spacious, covered workspaces. Inside, the design evokes a working ship—with exposed steel, mechanical systems, and stairways all highlighting the training program’s hands-on ethos. Exposed mass timber nods to the maritime theme, while honoring the region’s timber industry. The mass timber also eliminates the need for internal columns, leaving the space open and adaptable. The building’s transparent atrium invites views from both inside and outside. And a large map of perforated wood shows where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
“Moving through the building will feel like navigating the bridge on a maritime vessel,” SRG Partnership says in a statement.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the design serves a structural purpose. Adjacent to the Columbia River, the MERTS campus sits on land that was dredged from the river. The soil is sandy and silty, with a high risk of soil liquefaction in a seismic event—a key design challenge. Also, the bedrock lies 60 feet down. By limiting the footprint of the ground floor, the team minimized the amount (and cost) of foundation drilling. The cantilevered second floor provides the rest of the needed interior space.