Mountain Architecture: An Alternative Design Proposal
for the
Wy'East Day Lodge, Mount Hood Oregon

by Thomas P. Deering, Jr.


Click for larger image
Figure .1: Mount Hood from the Columbia River, 1874. An engraving by R. Henshel Wood. (Oregon Historical Society, Neg. No. Orhi 46142)

The mountains of the Pacific Northwest are tangled, wild, remote, and high. They have the roar of torrents and avalanches in their throats.(1)

Mount Hood, sitting resolutely high above the foothills of the northern Oregon Cascades, is but one of the many snowcapped peaks of the Pacific Northwest. Although it is not the tallest mountain in the Cascade range, it rises well above the surrounding countryside in a way which has attracted and inspired the white man ever since Lt. Broughton first saw it on October 30, 1792.(2) Its presence dominates the northern Willamette valley and the city of Portland, only fifty miles to the west.

To the Indians of the region, Mount Hood was known as Wy'East, one of the sons of the Great Spirit. Various legends have been told about the origin of Mount Hood, most describing quarrels with his brother, Pahto (Mount Adams), and their subsequent transformation into mountains.(3)

The higher elevations of the glaciated Cascade mountains were regarded by the Indians as the dwelling place of the mountain spirit, and never ventured upon so as not to anger him. The white man, however, did not share those superstitions and was eager to conquer the peaks. The first documented climb of Mount Hood was in 1857, and since then the mountain has been climbed by many thousands of people to become one of the most often climbed glaciated mountains in the world.(4) Climbing is not the mountain's only attraction. It has become an important destination for all types of outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Visitors have been traveling to the mountain in ever increasing numbers since the first inn was built on the north side of the peak in 1889.(5)

Whenever man ventures into an uninhabited part of the world his buildings are not long to follow. And so they came to the slopes of Mount Hood. By the late 1920s, tourism had become such a thriving business in Oregon that several different schemes to put a hotel on the mountain had been proposed.(6) All of this interest and activity effectively led to the submission of a proposal in 1935 to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for construction of a large hotel and recreation area on Mount Hood's south slope. The hotel would be, in the words of Emerson J. Griffith, regional administrator of the WPA, "a year around recreation center located at a spot commanding one of the most magnificent views in America."(7) And that it was.

The hotel, Timberline Lodge, designed and built in two short years at the 5,900 foot level, sits proudly above the forest, just at the point where the trees end and Mount Hood's dramatic snowfields begin (Figure .2). The Lodge became one of the gems of the WPA and made the upper reaches of Mount Hood accessible to practically anyone who had a desire to experience the wilderness. The Lodge originally served, in fairly equal numbers, climbers, skiers, and other recreationalists, but over the years, downhill skiing has drawn more and more enthusiasts. With this shift of emphasis in the lodge's wintertime usage, and the dramatic increase of recreational skiing in the 1960s, the wear and tear of this highly abusive foot traffic on Timberline Lodge began to significantly deteriorate the historic structure. It became evident that a new building should be built to handle the skiers and enable the Lodge to return to its original function as a hotel.

In 1979, ground was broken for just such a structure; the new Wy'East Day Lodge, and within two seasons it was ready for use.

Click for larger image
Figure .2: Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood. (Union Pacific photo. Postcard by Smith Western, Portland, Oregon, #DP-1783)

Until this time Timberline Lodge had stood virtually alone on the southern flanks of Mount Hood. Before the Wy'East Day Lodge was built, there was clearly a need for a new building, but what form should this new building take? How should it relate to Timberline Lodge? What should its relationship with the wilderness setting be? There is, of course, no one complete answer to any of these questions, yet any person charged with the responsibility of designing a building in such a situation is faced with having to answer them to some degree.

It is the purpose of this thesis to try and answer these questions in the form of an alternative design proposal for the Wy'East Day Lodge. To serve as background for the design proposal, and form the foundation for the tenets by which the design proposal is produced, Part I of the thesis investigates the environmental and sociological factors which make mountain or alpine buildings different from those in the flatlands. This involves looking at the qualities of the environment in which these buildings are built; the essential value of the wilderness to mankind; the effect of the mountain environment on buildings; and at examples of other mountain buildings found in Europe and North America.

Part II is the design proposal. As a preface to the design, a chapter entitled "Appropriate Mountain Architecture" outlines a series of subjective criteria, based on certain values of the wilderness by which the design is later evaluated. It should be stressed that the criteria are subjective and as such are a part of the design proposal, not necessarily universally accepted tenets of mountain architecture. It is therefore up to the reader to judge the relevance of each point and apply them as he or she sees fit.

In light of the subjectivity of these tenets, the choice was made not to critically evaluate the actual Wy'East Day Lodge. The Wy'East Day Lodge as built is presented briefly in the epilogue only as an elaboration of another solution to the problem. To facilitate any future comparison, however, the basis of the design proposal and the constructed day lodge are the same--the facilities program and site selection criteria which generated the built solution and also, for the most part, generated the design proposal (see Chapters III and VI). Any criticism of the Wy'East Day Lodge, as built, is thereby leveled by simply presenting the alternative solution.

Table of Contents


1. William O. Douglas, Of Men and Mountains, (1981), p. ix.

2. Fred McNeil, Wy'east, "THE Mountain", (1937), p. 27.

3. Ella C. Clark, Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, (1953), p. 7. McNeil, pp. 3-9.

4. Carl Gohs, Timberline, (1973), p. 10.

5. The Cloud Cap Inn opened for business on August 4, 1889 just below the timber line on Mount Hood's north side. See Chapter IV.

6. The various hotel schemes proposed in the 1920s are described in Chapter IV.

7. Emerson J. Griffith in a WPA Project Application dated September 7, 1935, as quoted in "Timberline Lodge: A WPA Experiment in Arts and Crafts," by Jean Weir, (1977), p.70.

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Master of Architecture Thesis
(M. Arch - University of Washington - 1986)

Extensive copying of this thesis is allowable only for scholarly purposes,
consistent with "fair use" as described in the U.S. Copyright Law.
Any other reproduction for any purpose or by any means
shall not be allowed without my written permission.

Copyright 1986 © Thomas P. Deering, Jr.