Hacker’s Ledding Library in Milwaukie

Hacker Architects,

Jeremy Bittermann,

Milwaukie, Oregon, USA,



The perfect combination of nature and culture: the new Ledding Library on the outskirts of the town of Milwaukie, Oregon, located between natural wetlands, a city park and the town hall, is a sustainable construction that meets the requirements of the 2030 Challenge and follows the site’s topography to blend into its surroundings.

  1. Blog
  2. Sustainable Architecture
  3. Hacker’s Ledding Library in Milwaukie

Hacker’s Ledding Library in Milwaukie 
A library in close contact with nature, which becomes an integral part of the architectural design: this is how we might describe the new Ledding Library in Milwaukie, Oregon. What used to be a small town has now merged into the suburbs of greater Portland, experiencing a bit of a boom in recent years thanks largely to its natural beauty. This is precisely the ingredient that makes Hacker’s project so special, and it was at the base of the brief: improving the library’s civic presence in the centre of Milwaukie and protecting the city park around it and water resources by giving priority to sustainable, restorative design.
Hacker’s project replaces the old local library opened in 1962 in the donated former home of Florence Olsen Ledding (1870-1961), a Milwaukie citizen and one of the state’s first women lawyers. Three additions to the original construction have added complexity and structural challenges over the years, while compromising accessibility and the operation and flexibility of the library. Hence the local authorities’ decision to construct a new building on the site, a great opportunity to take advantage of the library’s location adjacent to a panoramic pond and a tributary of the Willamette River. 
The shape of the new library, which has 1672 square metres of floor space, takes advantage of this splendid setting, unfolding in a way that captures broad views over the nearby forest and wetlands. The parking lot has been reconfigured along the western edge of the site to create a buffer zone with the nearby apartment buildings and consolidate the landscape and natural areas to the east, along the waterway. The colours of the timber structures reflect the oak trees in the park. Big windows along the eastern wall, shaded by big oak trees, are aligned with seating areas for reading with a view over the trees and the pond. Thermal gain is mitigated with narrower windows on the western side and a broad canopy over the entrance, providing shade on hot afternoons.
Dialogue with nature continues inside the building, designed on the basis of four principles identified in collaboration with the library staff, members of the community and the city council: People, Prosperity, Planet and Place. These four keywords translate into a lively information centre for the community that brings people together, stimulates the imagination and enriches lives. Acoustic and programmatic separation of the children’s and adults’ areas makes the library appropriate for use by all age ranges.
All the spaces created by Hacker Architects aim to generate a sense of belonging to the place, from the big community hall to the small meeting areas and utility spaces in the building. The undulating shape of the ceiling is inspired by the flow of water, and the specific geometry is guided by external conditions and influences, in a library that encourages people to approach not only culture, but nature, too.
All this is achieved with a great focus on sustainability, as Ledding Library is designed on the basis of the input for the 2030 Challenge. The American Institute of Architects or AIA has created the 2030 Commitment Program in support of the 2030 Challenge, aiming to transform the practice of architecture in response to the climate crisis in a holistic way. Hacker Architects’ new library offers a virtuous example of an architectural project that improves all aspects of the status quo. The project has been awarded the 2021 IIDA Oregon Interior Design Award and the 2021 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region, Merit Award.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Hacker
Location: Milwaukie, Oregon, USA
Year: 2021
Images: Jeremy Bitterman


Stay in touch with the protagonists of architecture, Subscribe to the Floornature Newsletter