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    Roots and Branches

    by Brian Libby

    Located in a quiet neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, yet near the busy Capitol Highway which connects downtown with its western suburbs, Hillsdale Branch Library occupies a transitional point between single-family homes to the north and a series of commercial buildings to the south.

    Hillsdale Branch is one of several acclaimed libraries the firm Thomas Hacker Architects has designed in the region. In 2001, for example, Hacker's Woodstock Branch was one of eight libraries honored by the American Library Association and the American Institute of Architects in a biennial listing of the best library projects in the United States.

    Hacker's first challenge was to balance the library's form to respond to two seemingly conflicting needs. As a neighborhood library and public building, it needed physical and metaphorical stature. But Hacker and his team also wanted to be careful not to dwarf the adjacent houses.

    A sloping site provided a second challenge. Hacker's design solves both by putting them together, using the pitch of the site to shape a building that's simultaneously monumental and discreet. To the north, the library's second floor is at eye level with the houses. To the south, the library expresses the grander presence one expects from a public building.   >>>

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    Hillsdale Branch Library in Portland, Oregon by Thomas Hacker Architects.
    Photo: Stephen Miller/ Thomas Hacker Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Inside the library, thin steel columns resemble those in the Johnson Wax Building of Frank Lloyd Wright.
    Photo: Stephen Miller/ Thomas Hacker Architects

     

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