Albina Library

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The Albina Library has returned to its historic home in Northeast Portland and is expanding to better serve its communities. LEVER’s design attentively restores the Carnegie-era library, focusing on historic preservation and integration of seismic upgrades. A major addition totaling 30,000 sf will double the facility's size, enhancing its function as a central community space equipped with a broad array of resources. This addition, designed to complement the architectural integrity of the Carnegie building, increases the total area to 41,000 sf, making Albina Library one of the largest in the system and further establishing its importance as a cultural landmark.

LEVER, together with Multnomah County Library and Noll & Tam Architects, lead a responsive design process guided by community input. LEVER initiated a comprehensive plan, incorporating 75+ meetings including large public events, focus groups, interviews with community leaders, and a youth design cohort. This strategy developed design principles centered on accessibility, sustainability, and representation, ensuring the project's alignment with the community's vision. By prioritizing a community-driven approach, the designers facilitated the integration of art and technology to support cultural diversity and social interaction, with an emphasis on Black excellence. The outcome is a library design that meets the community's immediate needs and anticipates future requirements, promoting sustainability and reinforcing a strong connection to local environmental and community values.

An early library design pop-up event at the King Farmer's Market, one of 75+ community meetings and events facilitated by the LEVER team.

As part of the public engagement and outreach, a youth design cohort of local students joined the client and the design team for facility tours, meetings, and design conversations throughout the design process.

The design's iconic new addition will serve as the primary library entrance

The addition's brick exterior reflects the surrounding historic district while the angles and palette are influenced by the original terracotta tile roof of the Carnegie. The design navigates the site's slope by linking the Carnegie's ground floor with the addition's second, positioning the adult reading room above the lobby for courtyard and neighborhood views.

Other features of the addition include an easily accessible community room on the ground floor that opens up to the courtyard, more equitable bathrooms in single user configurations, elevators and an open staircase connecting the two levels, and small group study rooms along the edge of the open book stacks.

The double-height entry lobby welcomes the public with a warm timber structure and views to a courtyard landscape.

With the library's main services moving to the addition, the Carnegie is repurposed for a larger children's area, accessible via Knott Street. Restored Spanish renaissance-style arches brighten the space, now complete with amenities such as family restrooms, and a nursing room, enhancing family-friendliness. Nearby, flex rooms for creative activities and a teen hub with terrace and courtyard views bridge the new with the historic.

The historic Carnegie building will be home to the children's area of the library, with a dedicated entrance on Knott Street.