The Big Float – We Love Our Willamette River

by Jacob Peel, Kyle Altman, Karim Hassanein

We here at Bora are big fans of the Willamette River. In fact, creating improved access to the river was a major component of our Water Avenue Yards design/research effort. Now that the sunshine seems to have stuck, we’re dusting off our swimming suits and getting ready for the 7th annual Big Float on July 15, organized by our friends at the Human Access Project. And this year, we have plans…

For many people in Portland, the Willamette has a poor reputation. It’s perceived as unsafe, unclean, and unfit for the kinds of summertime activities so many of us seek out when the temperature gets above 75 degrees. While this opinion may have been justified in the past, the completion of the Big Pipe project in 2011 has transformed our beleaguered local waterway into a playground waiting to be enjoyed.

That’s where the Human Access Project comes into play. Their mission is to reconnect our city with its river by organizing major beach cleanups, casual swim clubs, and events throughout the year. The Big Float is their largest fundraising celebration, and it’s always a blast. Thousands of Portlanders gather for food, music, a parade, and most importantly, a good long soak.

Oh, and there just so happens to be a “Most Outlandish Watercraft” competition! We were already excited about jumping in the water, but that would have been too easy. How could we call ourselves designers if we didn’t give ourselves a short deadline, a tight budget, and a loosely-defined program?

In the next few weeks, a crew of Bora’s die-hard river rats will be exploring form, material, and technique, as we craft a vessel for our maiden voyage. We’re not sure where it will take us, but here’s hoping it floats!