Canada’s first ‘bookless’ library offers Cambridge residents free access to an array of spaces for public learning and creation. Anchored on the bank of the Grand River, the project reignites a listed 1885 landmark and adds a 9,000-square-foot transparent pavilion that wraps around the original building and stretches out over the water.
A glass box entrance introduces an exhilarating progression up a feature stair adjacent to glass-walled views of the historic building, providing users with a close-up of the immaculately restored masonry while carrying them into the contemporary pavilion addition that cantilevers over the river wall. Scattered with table and lounge seating, this area offers breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views of the surroundings. Rhythmic window openings in the old building are now entrances into a fully-equipped Reading Room Cafe, accessed by bridges that echo the bridges over the river. The openings in the floor allow natural light from skylights overhead to connect the activities below to the heart of the building.
On the lower level, users can take advantage of a suite of creative studio spaces. A black box theatre, film and audio recording suites, laptop dispensing and gaming areas, and musical instruments are available for recording and performance. The second level is a children’s Discovery Centre with smart tables, robot building kits, and built-in feature walls for Lego, Lite Brite and magnets.
The attic Makerspace soars to a peak, braced by an elegant arrangement of star-shaped trusses. Between these trusses the architects have created a fully-equipped studio outfitted with a laser cutter, 3D printers, soldering stations, vinyl cutters, sewing machines, and wood and metal workshop tools.
This project represents a new library typology, housed within a heritage structure in constant dialogue with its contemporary, transparent addition, projecting this exciting new public program to the street, the river, and the city beyond.
Credits: Robert Ng Nak Design Strategies, Andrew Dionne WSP, David Giugovaz Valdor Engineering, Tyler Sharp RDHA, Kelly Gilbride SBA, Raed Hindi Jain Sustainability, Ezzat Mitri Jain Sustainability