Designed to fulfill the non-profit’s mission to “engage and educate people of all generations in traditional and contemporary maritime life, in a spirit of adventure and discovery.”
The historic seaport town of Port Townsend is one of the most popular destinations on Washington’s Olympic peninsula. With a culture steeped in the town’s rich history of maritime trades, the population swells the second weekend of September as host to the West Coast’s premier festival dedicated to wooden boats and all things nautical. Organizers of the event, the non-profit Northwest Maritime Center, challenged us to design a structure to serve as a community center for both tourists and locals.
The building blends hands-on educational spaces, boat maintenance and storage spaces, administrative offices, and conference facilities. An active ground floor includes a working boat shop, gallery/ retail operation, and coffee shop. The best space in the building fronting Port Townsend Bay and a one-acre public plaza is designed around the Center’s collection of historic Pocock racing shells.
In collaboration with some of the Northwest’s best-known wooden boat builders, the Center borrows craft, materiality, transparency and color in keeping with the community’s rich industry and culture of boatbuilding and fine woodworking. As importantly, the building has proven to be just as effective accommodating 30,000 visitors for the Wooden Boat Festival, as it is hosting an 8-person seminar on navigation or a 120-guest wedding. The building has allowed the non-profit to adapt its programs, offerings, and facilities to deliver on its organizational mission while finding financial sustainability.