Designing a Space Where Oregon’s Past and Present Intersect

By Hennebery Eddy

research library interior

Spotlight on a 1960s-Era Research Library Renovation

The Oregon Historical Society is dedicated to making Oregon’s history visible and accessible to all. Located in Portland’s South Park Blocks Cultural District, the OHS building was designed in a neo-brutalist style by Wolff Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, with input from the renowned Portland architect Pietro Belluschi. The fourth-floor Research Library had not seen major reinvestment since its construction in the mid-60s and was ready for a major refresh to meet current and future research needs.


Hennebery Eddy’s transformative renovation focused on creating a healthy, bright, and efficient work environment while maintaining the mid-century character and honoring the original attention to detail. Simple moves brought new life to this timeless space — like introducing daylight into the hallways and restoring the white oak reading tables.

Our design team worked with OHS staff to meet their unique archiving needs while creating more comfortable spaces for their important work researching and documenting Oregon’s history. We designed sensitive alterations to provide for greatly improved accessibility, technology, sustainability, collections security, and visitor experience. The library includes a reconfigured reference desk, modernized reading room, flexible offices and staff work areas, a range of collection spaces, as well as the Belluschi Architectural Resource Center.

The result of our renovation design is a space that blends Modernist charm with future-focused updates and respect for the historical materials as well as the people who handle them. Hennebery Eddy Principal Andrew Smith and OHS Library Director Shawna Gandy presented on the library’s renovation at the Northwest Archivists 2023 Annual Meeting in May, themed “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” Learn more about Hennebery Eddy’s cultural and civic work here.