Miller Hull

Vancouver Community Library

Vancouver, WA
The building has been skillfully designed to play a central cultural role in the community and to promote the resurgence of the core of Vancouver. Timothy Leavitt, (former) mayor, City of Vancouver
Client Fort Vancouver Regional Library District
Certifications LEED Gold
Size 75,000 SF
Completion 2011


The library is a community’s living room; a place for family, friends, congregation, exploration, and knowledge. Or at least, this is what the City of Vancouver wished its central branch would be.

Alas, the Fort Vancouver Library was less of a living room and more of a basement. The 1960s split-level building was over-crowded and cramped, lacked programming space for children and teens, and was not handicap-accessible. As a result, circulation was surging in the suburban branches, and the central branch began to see fewer and fewer patrons.

The library began envisioning a building in the heart of the city that could meet the community’s 21st century needs while providing both a cultural and economic boost to the downtown area. One that could give the City an institution that would reflect the community – its personality, goals, surrounding architecture – while feeling as natural to navigate as one’s own living room.

As the anchor of a mixed use, multi-block development, the building’s four-story, nearly 200’ long atrium faces a future civic plaza. Relocated to a more pedestrian-friendly area, the centrally-located new library is a visible staple to the downtown area. The space, highlighted by a multi–story art piece visible from blocks away, weaves together the underpinnings of the library (discovery, curiosity, exploration and connection) with practical and easy-to-understand building navigation. This piece continues to illuminate the library even after dark, and provides a calming glow to those passing by, a symbol that these qualities need not ever fade.

Designed for an intuitive visitor experience, each floor has a specific collection and services with a distinct character to allow patrons to find the environment that suits them that day–from the bustle of the cafe at street-level to the quiet of the wood-wrapped reading room on level five. The building’s materials and expression reflect the importance of the site as a link between the downtown commercial core and the historic district. An expansive rooftop deck provides views to the Columbia River and Mount Hood, creating a breathtaking spot for a cup of coffee, to quietly read, meet up with friends, or to attend a book reading.

Today, the new library is thriving – increasing circulation by more than 50% from the old building. More tellingly, visitation has more than doubled as the library has now become a city destination, hosting thousands more visitors a year–a sign that the community (and beyond) loves its new library, and that the building is contributing to Vancouver’s cultural vibrancy.

Project Team

Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
Contractor: Balfour Beatty Construction dba Howard S. Wright Construction
Interpretive Design: Aldrich Pears Associates
Lighting Consultant: Candela
Signage and Wayfinding / Landscape Architect: Mayer Reed
MEP Engineer: Interface Engineering
Structural Engineer: Kramer Gehlen & Associates
Civil Engineer: Hooper Dennis Jellison
Envelope Consultant: RDH Building Sciences
Acoustical Consultant: Altermatt Associates
Cost Consultant: Architectural Cost Consultants
Fire Protection: Jensen Hughes
Hardware Consultant: Gordon W. Adams