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I recently visited Washington State for the first time for a project. Of course, the first place that comes to mind in Washington is Seattle, but our project site is in Brewster, which is in central Washington. Unlike its famous counterpart that is known for its rainy weather, Brewster has an arid climate. The last hour of my more than three hour drive to the site was along the Columbia River. It couldn’t have been more scenic; it was simply majestic. Examining the way this area developed reminded me of my early architectural studies.

road next to a river and mountains
My scenic drive along the Columbia River.

During the ancient times of the pyramids, development was along rivers because waterways were critical to the transport of supplies and goods. The area along the Columbia River developed in the same way, with everything clustered in the few hundred feet around the shoreline, but quickly fell off as you approach the mountain slopes. This is a stark contrast for someone who has spent most of their life on the east coast where almost all waterfront property is considered prime real estate. Instead, the area reminded me of England where the development was in clusters and then long gaps between them. It was refreshing to see the areas of natural landscape interspersed with development.

river and mountains
A bit of development along the river.

Since the area is very arid, the only green in the landscape was the numerous orchards. Between the rows and rows of trees, there were crates of all shapes and sizes ready to be filled with the apple harvest, creating a form of architecture in the open space.  It dominated the physical structures in the area.  The arrangement of like colors, styles, and what appeared to be a discard pile created a nice balance of space as the sun was rising.

stacks of crates for apples
Stacks of crates at an orchard.

This trip reminded me of how important it is to visit different places. Even the simple things, like apple crates, can tell a story about the local area. Next time you get a chance to visit another place, take some time to examine the iconic architectural items but don't forget to take in the whole landscape and what makes the area unique.

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