Albion Public Library
Situated in one of Toronto’s post-war suburbs, this new library relies on its graceful gestural form and colorful facade to promote engagement. It assumes a vital role in a community that has become an arrival point for new immigrants, offering traditional services as well as cultural orientation, social integration, enhancement of employment skills, and access to technology.
The new library replaces an aged facility, but the team’s consultations with the community early in the design process revealed significant opposition to closing the existing library for the two years it would take to construct a new one. In response, the team shifted the site to an existing parking lot. Once construction was complete, the former library site was developed into a multi-use urban plaza that supports parking as well as events and community-focused markets — a needed amenity in Albion’s largely undefined public realm.
The context is dominated by a six-lane arterial road and the massive Albion Centre shopping complex, but the library softens its car-oriented nature through plantings, seating, and a community garden. The community’s desire for an urban oasis spurred the team’s design concept of a walled garden defined at its perimeter by a polychrome screen of terracotta louvers. The highly textured facade is lifted at the corners to reveal points of entry and key programmatic areas, while the undulating timber roof slopes down to three courtyards that draw light, color, and nature into the library’s heart.
Community input drove an architectural concept that is suited to a diverse, high-needs population, and the universal language of a garden draws together people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. While the plan is visually open and readily accessible, the courtyards help create a series of discrete environments. The marriage of identity and territory meshed with a welcoming framework echoes a vision of Canadian society for newcomers.