The ‘Story Pod’ is a community supported lending library situated in the historic downtown core of Newmarket, Ontario. Placed on the edge of a prominent, recently completed civic square, the pod continues the municipality’s plan to use contemporary design as a means of creating a lively, innovative public hub for community exchange.
The Story Pod’s conception originated in a public-private partnership between the Town of Newmarket and local business HollisWealth. Members of both teams had a desire to build within the public sphere with the intent to activate and foster values of sharing and inclusion. The idea for a mobile book exchange emerged. Both Scholastic and the Newmarket Public Library were engaged to provide an initial supply of books. A donation of funds was provided by HollisWealth to construct the pavilion, built by a crew of Newmarket Operation Services employees within the controlled environment of their Public Works Facility.
AKB were approached by the Town of Newmarket with the opportunity to join the team and develop the project on a pro-bono basis. Based on the essential project guidelines (compactness, transportability, energy efficiency and ease of construction) the Story Pod utilizes a pure, simple form to maximum capacity and impact. When closed, the abstract, black volume — 8’ w by 8’ d by 10’ h — acts as an urban marker, drawing curious residents from nearby Main Street and an adjacent walking trail. As users move around the box, the rhythm of its vertical exterior slats changes. The tightest spacing articulates opaque walls; the larger gaps, backed by transparent polycarbonate, allow light and views to filter through; and the widest openings showcase the book stacks, drawing further curiosity and interest inward.
During the day, two entire walls pivot open, encouraging people to come inside or to gather around the front. In this transformative process, the dark wood exterior gives way to a carefully detailed interior clad in warm, marine grade veneer plywood, containing a full wall of books and various levels of built-in seating. With both walls fully open the pod extends itself outward beyond its compact footprint, engaging individual visitors to take or leave a book, while it also supports larger gatherings and collective reading sessions with groups of students and teachers. At night, with the doors closed, recessed, energy efficient LED lights, powered by concealed rooftop solar panels, glow through the exterior battens, providing ambience for night markets and community events. During the winter months, the pod is stored off-site; steel channels recessed into the base accommodate a standard forklift for efficient transportation.
The Story Pod is an unprecedented success for the Town of Newmarket in its effect on the community, as expressed in stories of gratitude and inspiration conveyed to the Mayor and City Staff, as well as in local, national and international press. The project is a strong example of the value of public-private partnerships and the tremendous impact that a small structure can have on an urban scale, strengthening both community and city.