Page D2.2 . 24 August 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Roots and Branches


    The ceiling is festooned in FSC-certified fir in a crisscrossing pattern diagonal to the building's footprint. The pattern draws one's eye toward the corner, where the windows frame an idyllic view of evergreen trees. This is one of the details for which Hacker is most proud. "By keeping the rigor in that geometry, and really pushing the precision of it, there's a simplicity that you feel," he explained. "It's not noisy. But at the same time it has a richness that you feel."

    Extending along the northern portion of the library is a glass-enclosed entry that leads the visitor up a gradual slope that enhances a spiritual feeling. Like another Wright building, Unity Temple, the journey into the space is upward. An interior glass wall is festooned with etched, colored glass that looks a bit like stained-glass church windows.

    Portland once boasted more library card holders per capita than any other American city. If the spiritual aspect of this building seems inappropriate, keep in mind that people here hold their books in high regard.

    In the Pacific Northwest, a lot of attention has come lately to the stunning Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas. While Hacker expresses admiration for that project, he says he and his clients at Multnomah County were interested in something different. "They wanted a kind of simple dignity," Hacker recalls, "with the idea that the statements made in the design were going to last for a long time."

    Indeed, while this humble library has not garnered the avalanche of publicity that covered Koolhaas's landmark to the north, the Hillsdale Branch is nonetheless a jewel that will illuminate its community for generations.

    Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Architectural Record.

    Project Credits

    Architect: Thomas Hacker Architects Inc.
    Civil engineer: Symonds Consulting Engineers
    Landscape architect: Walker Macy
    Structural engineer: Degenkolb Engineers
    Mechanical and electrical engineer: PAE Consulting Engineers Signage and graphic design: Anderson Krygier, Inc.
    General contractor: Hoffman Construction Company

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    ArchWeek Image

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

    ArchWeek Image

    Steel columns resemble those in the Johnson Wax Building of Frank Lloyd Wright.
    Photo: Stephen Miller/ Thomas Hacker Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Column elevation.
    Image: Thomas Hacker Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Ceiling plan.
    Image: Thomas Hacker Architects


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