Multnomah County Library Selects Two Architecture Teams for the Capital Bond Projects

Building designs will be guided by community engagement, equity and Design Justice

PORTLAND, Ore.--After a multiphase request for proposals facilitated by Multnomah County’s Procurement team, the Library Capital Bond Program Management Office is excited to announce two architecture teams have been selected to design the first four public location bond projects (of nine approved by voters in November 2020), with an intentional focus on community organizing and engagement.

LEVER Architecture, along with Noll & Tam Architects, will lead the design work for the North Portland Library renovation and new Albina Library. Bora Architecture & Interiors, which has partnered with Colloqate Design on multiple Portland-area projects with an emphasis on Design Justice, will design the new Holgate Library and Midland Library renovation and addition. Both projects will be led by architects who are women of color with substantial backgrounds in community-based architecture and design projects. 

Jeanie Lai, a principal at Bora, is currently working with Colloqate design principal Bryan Lee, Jr. on the Portland Community College (PCC) Metropolitan Workforce Training Center. Guided by Design Justice and Trauma-Informed Design, the Center's design is a celebration of the community, cultivating a culture of collective care with humanizing spaces that connect to nature and celebrate cultural diversity. The building also features a sustainably harvested engineered wood structure, pioneering as the first mass timber project for PCC. Lee is a nationally-recognized leader in the Design Justice movement, and a founding organizer of the Design As Protest Collective in addition to his work with Colloqate on projects such as reimagining the Clairborne Innovation District in New Orleans.

“We are honored to be part of the team on these important projects. Libraries are essential elements of social infrastructure, and we look forward to organizing with the Midland and Holgate communities to ensure that these projects build collective power long after the last brick is laid,” said Bryan Lee Jr., Colloqate Design principal.

Jeanie Lai, a principal at Bora, added, “Working with communities is an essential part of Bora’s DNA. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to lead our team to reimagine and maximize the potential of future libraries in Portland. Thinking past the library as a building for books, we will work closely with the communities of Holgate and Midland as well as leaders of the Library Capital Bond Program to create inclusive places for connections, bringing people together to grow and flourish.”

Chandra Robinson, a principal at LEVER, recently completed a new campus for equity-based foundation Meyer Memorial Trust. Located in the Albina district, the LEED Platinum campus is earning national praise as a civic building rooted in social and climate justice values. She is currently leading the Dekum Court affordable housing redevelopment in North Portland, the design of which is guided by a vital and active community engagement process. Robinson will work closely with partner firm Noll & Tam Architects, a women-owned library design firm noted for the Hayward Library and Community Learning Center and the Half Moon Bay Library, among others.

For Chandra Robinson, these Multnomah County Library bond projects are particularly meaningful. “Portland is my hometown and I am so proud to lead our team to envision the future of our Albina and North Portland libraries. Authentic engagement with our community of library patrons and neighbors is critical to the design process and will help shape a space that will welcome and inspire all Portlanders,” Robinson said. 

Chris Noll, principal with Noll & Tam Architects and Fellow with the American Institute of Architects, shares Robinson’ s connection to the community, stating, “Noll & Tam is committed to designing libraries that are the places where people come together to innovate, create, and learn, engines for advancement, success, and sharing community values. We look forward to working closely with the communities of North Portland and Albina to learn what is needed and create safe and welcoming spaces that provide the services and programs to best serve the needs of the people who live here.”

"I am delighted to work with people and organizations who share the library's commitment to creating meaningful social infrastructure with and for the people of Multnomah County," said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. "Libraries are far more than book repositories and we now have an opportunity to demonstrate that, with spaces that will offer our community new and more forward-looking ways of using and experiencing their libraries.”

At the center of Multnomah County Library’s priorities and work is a set of pillars which focus on free access for all while centering equity and lived experience. These pillars align closely with the architecture teams’ extensive experience in developing culturally responsive, community-facing projects. This experience, combined with the skills and knowledge of library staff and the bond’s new Community Engagement Coordinator, Suzanne Chou, will help drive the strategic planning process surrounding in-depth community engagement starting in August and continuing throughout the life of each project.

These community engagement efforts are happening in some of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas of the county. Holgate Library will have an entirely new building at its current site and Midland Library will undergo renovations along with an addition. Both North Portland and Albina Libraries will undergo renovations and additions.