April 24, 2018

Vancouver Community Library | New Landmark Libraries 2015 Winner


Open to the Future

Vancouver Community Library | Fort Vancouver Regional Library District | Washington
ARCHITECT: Miller Hull Partnership


OPENED: 2012
COST: $38 million
LEED Gold Certified

The leadership at Fort Vancouver Regional Library District in Vancouver, WA, realized how quickly and drastically the library can change. With this in mind, the new Vancouver Community Library, completed in 2012, was built to evolve with technology as well as the library’s perceptive role in the community.

The guiding vision of the design was a “drawer full of knowledge.” This describes both the concept of the whole building as an open drawer and the different areas on each level of the library. Large volumes of glass make the book stacks, reading chairs, and children’s area plainly visible to the outside, presenting an active and transparent connection to the surrounding ­neighborhood.

One of the many highlights of the library is the Knowledge Wall, a four-­story piece of public art that encourages guests to “Explore, Connect, or Browse.” According to the submission, many visitors can be found “staring up at it, working to identify the items depicted in the artwork and to locate inspirational words.”

The library made sure to include the residents in the design process with the goals of increasing services and to “play a cultural role in the community resurgence in the center of Washington State’s fourth largest city,” according to the submission. The library worked with staff and focus groups and held public meetings, making the community aware that it wanted the new library to “reflect and respect” the area and buildings surrounding the library. Working with the community, the library created a 4,000 square foot children’s place that is meant for hands-on ­learning.


A LEED Gold–certified building, more than 90 percent of the library uses natural light, with various objects strategically placed throughout to offer more shaded areas. The building also has enhanced insulation to help minimize the hot and cold air that might be transferred from the inside to the exterior. The building also harvests storm water to cut down on surface runoff, installed a terra-cotta rain screen assembly, and features native plants on its green roof.

In addition to the New Landmark Libraries status, the facility received recognition on both a national and local level, including the American Architecture Award for Distinguished Buildings–­Chicago Athenaeum (Museum of Architecture and Design) and the AIA/ALA (American Institute of Architects/American Library Association) Library Building Awards. It ranked second in a list of the top ten children’s libraries by Livability Magazine.

The Vancouver Community Library is beautiful, functional, and sustainable inside and out. As one judge noted, the variety of spaces within the building demonstrates an “understanding of how a library is many things to many different people,” ensuring that the library will continue to be a community necessity for years to come.—Betsy Eggers

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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