Albion District Library
Owner: Albion Public Library
Project site: Previously developed land
Building program type(s): Public Assembly – Library
One of the busiest libraries in Toronto, the Albion District Library serves a broad range of services to a diverse demographic, including many recent immigrants. Extensive community consultation shaped the design in fundamental ways, including the decision not to renovate and expand an existing library building, which would require a closure of nearly two years. Instead, our team proposed building a new library on the adjacent parking lot site, allowing the existing library to remain open through construction. The importance of the library as a community hub inspired the central architectural concept of an enclosed garden.
"This project clearly demonstrates the immediate positive impact of good design. A district library that serves a diverse and newly-immigrant community, the library has a dramatically increased visitorship (with a notable 75 percent increase for teenagers) over the old facility." ~ Jury statement
Located in Toronto’s Rexdale neighborhood at the northwest edge of the city, Albion Library is one of Toronto’s most well used public libraries. As well as providing standard lending services, Albion is a critical social resource for the neighborhoods diverse and high-needs community. When community consultations revealed the vital function, the library plays in this high needs neighborhood, plans to renovate/expand the existing branch were abandoned in favor of a new build on the adjacent parking lot permitting uninterrupted service. The community’s desire for a safe urban oasis inspired the concept of a walled garden defined at its perimeter by a polychrome screen of terracotta louvers. The richly textured façade lifts at the corners articulating the entry and key program areas. An undulating timber roof slopes to three courtyards that bring light, color and nature into the heart of the square plan. Albion Library used community input to shape an architectural concept that is suited to a diverse, high needs population. The universal language of a garden was utilized to draw people together from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. While the plan is visually open and physically accessible, zoning by a series of courtyards creates discrete environments. Identity and territory within an open and welcoming framework echoes a vison of Canadian society for newcomers. Media suites and maker spaces engage patrons in creating content and self-expression while spaces such as the urban living room allow a forum for broader cultural expression.