Maya Lin: Drawings from the Confluence Project
Archer Gallery at Clark College, 1800 E McLoughlin, Vancouver, through Dec 2

With a ceremonial groundbreaking earlier this month, construction on the highly anticipated Confluence Project has officially begun. And while the project—which includes seven sites along the Columbia River Basin—is ostensibly commemorating the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, it is fast becoming equally about the high-profile architect behind it. Inextricably linked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, Maya Lin has helped balance the project's focus between celebrating the explorers and more indigenous elements, such as the natural landscape and native tribes. As suggested by the project's name, the sites represent a conflation of disparate entities. Most literally, the majority of the sites will mark the confluence of rivers flowing into the Columbia Basin. But, on a figurative level, these sites will illustrate less obvious collisions, such as Anglo and Native American cultures, and the natural and the human-made.

Of the seven components of the project, the most spectacular is the 40-foot-wide Land Bridge, which will traverse State Route 14 and recreate a bygone Native American trail that led to the Columbia. According to Lin, the highway and a parallel railway have "sever[ed] the physical, ecological, and social connection between Fort Vancouver and the Columbia River." Architectural sketches and a model for the Land Bridge, which Lin designed with Seattle-based architecture firm Jones & Jones, are on display at Clark College's Archer Gallery. The drawings provide an interesting peek into the nascent stages of the Land Bridge's design, even if, as images, they are fairly unremarkable. Based on these drawings, it is unclear whether the bridge, which is flanked by a coiling path and will feature vegetation native to the region, will be much more than a greenish overpass. Lin has remarked that she did not want to create any tourist-friendly landmarks and the understated design of the Land Bridge confirms that. But with sky-high expectations of this world-class architect, let's hope the sites of the Confluence Project don't just disappear into the background.