Set in the East Multnomah County of Portland, Ore., Midland Library attempts to move beyond a conventional space. In collaboration with local firm Bora Architecture & Interiors as architect of record, the New Orleans– and Portland-based firm Colloqate served as the design architect on the 24,000-square-foot renovation and 6,000-square-foot addition that weave the profound narratives of a multifaceted community into a space tailored to an eclectic community.

Honoring Lived Experiences:
East Multnomah, enriched by communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and those impacted by the gentrification of Portland’s city center, required spaces that resonate with its values. The library renovation connects the stories of its residents into its architectural fabric.

Distinct Architectural Elements:
Woven community spaces: The design intricately crafts outdoor plaza spaces, collective seating, and flexible program rooms, reminiscent of the strength of intertwined basket strands.
Interactive engagement: Drawing patrons into a world of interactive play and discovery, the library incorporates sliding art walls, multisensory play areas, and versatile workshop zones.
Cultural homage: At its core, the library champions a Community Art Showcase, fostering a deep connection to the local narrative through prominent art by regional artists and cultural collection displays.
Ecological and well-being nexus: Nestled seamlessly with Midland Park, the design accentuates native plantings and elements inspired by rivers, water, and trees, resonating with life and adaptation.

Deep-Rooted Community Involvement:
A standout feature of the Midland Library design process is its unwavering commitment to community inclusivity throughout its design journey. The foundation was laid with Design Justice training early in the project, sensitizing team members from library staff and community advocates to our partners and contractors to potential systems of injustice.

Directly bridging the project with the community pulse, interviews with library staff and the instrumental role of Community Design Advocates like Anabertha Alvarado Martinez, Anthony Deloney, Athena Rilatos, Dominique Garcia, Isa Ruelas, Jay Tang, Jess Smith-Carlock, Jenica Ocker, Marih Alyn-Claire, Miguel Rodriguez, Som Subedi, and Sophie Garcia have been invaluable. Their engagements ensured the Midland community remained at the forefront.

The redesigned Midland Library affirms East County residents as authors of their own stories and active creators of a shared future. By weaving many voices into one vibrant communal fabric, it will help build a stronger, more equitable, and resilient community.

This article first appeared in the October 2023 issue of ARCHITECT, which was guest edited and designed by Dark Matter U.