Miller Hull’s design for the new Powell River Library in British Columbia is another example of the firm’s longstanding sustainable Pacific Northwest regionalist design. Miller Hull’s commitment to the social contributions of their projects is clearly evident, as the firm partnered with this forward-thinking library to positively impact the Powell River community economically, socially, and culturally. As Charlie Kregel of the Powell River Library put it, “[the library] will become a social hub for Powell River, creating an inviting place not only for learning, but for lots of events, activities and programs”. The imaginative design for this new civic resource is a direct result of the community's collaborative contributions throughout the design process.
Miller Hull’s Powell River Library is located on a previously developed site on the edge of the Strait of Georgia. The design grows from a simple rectilinear programmatic form, and it responds to the client’s request for a single-level building by tucking into a hillside with a 26-foot change in elevation. This creates an exciting streetscape that interacts with the building’s semi-saw-toothed green roof. Informal seating and gathering spaces are created as the adjacent pedestrian walk glides down to the sunken entry level of the building. These public spaces help to create a building which Kregel describes as “a significant public building that the community will use as a central gathering place”.
Miller Hull responded to the community’s strong desire to make the building sustainable yet affordable. The building responds well to the opportunities of this exciting site – for instance, the saw-tooth roof creates north-facing clerestories, which bring in softer natural light. The library’s roof design also incorporates a large overhang along the edge directly parallel to the waterfront, which provides shelter from the harsher western sunlight. These sustainable, site-specific design methods will help the library to maintain energy savings on lighting and heating year round. In addition to providing daylighting, the glazed window-walls open the interior up to the water, capturing the site’s spectacular views. Miller Hull incorporated open, flexible spaces, so the library can be easily adapted over time as needs change without dramatic renovation.
Miller Hull’s partner for the project is Vancouver-based Public: Architecture + Communication. This combined design team faces the task of integrating a new building into the Powell River cityscape as part of a revitalization effort for the historic downtown business corridor. Accessible only by ferry, Powell River has the unique opportunity to grow its presence as a wonderful destination town offering great lifestyle choices and recreational opportunities on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. The library will ultimately be a node in the new “destination” map that the Powell River community is creating.
Plans for the Powell River Library are moving forward but can benefit from additional help and support. So check out their website and video and stand up for the future of this sustainably designed cultural institution that cultivates knowledge, culture, and tourism.