East County Library

Multnomah County Library

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A New Community Landmark

Part of Multnomah County Library, the new East County Library located in Gresham, Oregon will have a major presence in its neighborhood, providing a place for residents to access new, important community resources. This addition to the Multnomah County Library system will be similar in size to the Central Library located in downtown Portland, but in a location that is easily accessible for all East County residents. The project will transform an underutilized parking lot on the corner of NW Division Street and NW Eastman Parkway. A new Civic Hub for events and markets will define the north edge of the site and complement Gresham City Hall and Plaza, which sit across the light rail tracks. A linear, tree-filled pedestrian pathway will link this Civic Hub and TriMet’s MAX Light Rail Service to a terraced entry plaza on Division and TriMet’s FX Bus Line.

The building’s landmark design blends into the natural landscape and patterns of the Pacific Northwest, creating a thoughtful beacon that will serve community members for generations to come. The building’s program is inextricably linked to its site, forming a gradient of uses from engaging to exploratory to focused. To the west, the main entries and an array of active programming engage the central pedestrian path, including a makerspace, 230-seat auditorium, indoor-outdoor children’s play area, and dedicated teen space. This active zone intersects a more exploratory zone at the library’s core with its vast collection of books and specialized programming, from community and sensory rooms to an audio-visual recording studio. Finally, comfortable, window-lined seating defines the east side of the building for a more focused reading zone and workspace, completing this programmatic gradient.

Wonder, Refuge, & Exploration

The new East County Library emulates the sense of wonder, refuge, and exploration that the Pacific Northwest’s forests evoke. Inspired by Native architecture, the design is connected to place in its use of local, natural materials. Mass timber forms the structure of the building from columns to roofline, matched by a wood-filled interior of paneled walls, storefronts, and balustrades.

Forest-Inspired Architecture

The forest is imprinted in our minds by the ground and its understory, the verticality of the trees, and the light-dappled canopy above. As such, the library is grounded in a concrete base of alternating smooth and board-formed textures, with glue-laminated columns rising towards a roof plane that spans over the edges of the façade, outlined by a grid of timber coffers. A two-story curtain wall spans between columns, emphasizing the vertical motif, with glazing infilled by grooved, earth-hued concrete panels. The pair of entries highlight this double-height space, emerging from modest-height vestibules into light-filled, perspectival entry lobbies. The center of the library is a clearing in the forest, where north-facing clerestories perforate the canopy with light. This double-height “Living Room” is ringed by a wood screen along the second story that wraps into a circular staircase—a bridge between ground and canopy.

While a regularized grid and varied verticality delineate the mass of the building, this rhythm is broken by a playful series of sloping curves along the pedestrian pathway that define an array of program elements, linking inside and out: mural-wrapped children’s play spaces, a glass-ribboned auditorium, outdoor reading areas, and a bridge over below-grade parking. Each curve initiates a flow through the site that blends moments of transparency into the building with moments to gather, engage, or rest among a landscape of native trees and plantings.

“We’re dreaming big, and the new East County Library is going to be something unique and meaningful. From an incredible auditorium for cultural celebrations to spaces for making, learning, doing and playing, this library will be beautiful, accessible and representative of the people of East County. A public library should reflect our highest ideals and aspirations and we are making that a reality.”

– Vailey Oehlke, Director of Libraries

Community Engagement Process

Community engagement has provided critical feedback to the design team from the beginning of this project. By working collaboratively with Multnomah County Library, we collected valuable input on what spaces were needed and desired in addition to required program elements. The design of each space was influenced by the librarians who work in these spaces every day, community members, and future patrons. We engaged directly with East County community members through three core approaches: attending local community events, hosting compensated focus groups, and through the ongoing participation of our community Library Champions: El Programa Hispano Católico, and Black Economic Collective, along with working with Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA NW) on the Civic Hub. County-wide feedback was collected via three surveys: a general library design survey, an art survey, and an accessibility survey.

A Vibrant Children's Hub

We heard input from parents that a large children’s area with indoor and outdoor play space would be a great community resource. The library will feature a generous outdoor play area and a flexible indoor play space with a youth program room for story time and other children’s activities.

Versatile Programming

The new East County Library is full of program spaces that will serve the community in a variety of ways. The auditorium will be one of the few performance or lecture hall spaces in the area. Community members are excited about having a space where they could see a TED Talk, attend a book signing, or go to a cultural celebration. The audio-visual studio will house both video recording equipment and sound/music editing tools. Several community rooms of various sizes will be flexible spaces that can be reserved at no cost by patrons for studying, hosting gatherings, or attending virtual meetings. The maker space will be the largest in the library system and will hold equipment such as laser cutters, sticker makers, embroidery and sewing machines, 3D printers, and more. The teen space will have media nooks for watching videos or gaming, as well as flexible seating for lounging and reading, and space to have small showcases or performances. Community members expressed interest in having a quiet reading space, which will be a space to get away from the activity in the rest of the lively library spaces. Additionally, there will be an indoor and outdoor play area for children, and easily accessible all-user bathrooms and lactation rooms.

East County Library is designed to support people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. With its unique and flexible programming spaces, it will be a place for learning, gathering, and connection. East County Library will be unlike any library currently in Multnomah County.

East County Library was designed by Holst in collaboration with Adjaye Associates through Design Development.


Multnomah County Library


Gresham, OR


Expected 2025


95,000 sq. ft.


Targeting LEED Gold