Perkins + Will Updates Toronto Library With Community in Mind

After serving the largely immigrant population of the Rexdale neighborhood nonstop since 1972, Toronto Public Library’s Albion branch needed a major upgrade. Perkins + Will, agreeing to take on the project at a reduced fee, started by leading focus groups to assess the community’s needs. The sentiment? Don’t do anything at all. “We would rather you left it as it is, because we use it every day,” principal and design director Andrew Frontini recalls being told. So it was decided that the existing library would stay open during the construction of a bigger, better one—a feat made possible by commandeering half of a parking lot that was needlessly large, given that only 20 percent of patrons arrive by car.

White-oak veneer for bookcases and paneling. Photography by Doublespace Photography.
The building’s 15-degree slope. Photography by Doublespace Photography.

The asphalt now replaced by lush landscaping, the vivid colors and dynamic forms of the 29,000 square foot new building create an instantly recognizable destination, starting with the facade. It’s wrapped in bands of slender terracotta slats lined up like book spines and glazed in varying shades, a nod to the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity. The building’s profile, meanwhile, slopes to help rainwater flow evenly across the roof garden and to make space below for glass walls to bring daylight into the reading rooms. Nature’s role continues with three internal courtyards, venues for such outdoor programming as a workshop called “Learn To Camp.”

Douglas fir beams supporting the cedar ceiling. Photography by Doublespace Photography.
Perkins + Will wrapped Toronto Public Library’s Albion branch in 2-inch-wide slats of glazed terra-cotta. Photography by Doublespace Photography.

> See more from the October 2017 issue of Interior Design

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