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Bishop's University, Lemay, Lumigroup, Sherbrooke, Quebec

Any good workspace or reading nook requires good lighting. And so it was at Bishop’s University Library in Sherbrooke, Quebec – only on a grand scale.

Over the years, the three-level facility’s stacks had become so densely packed that they blocked most of the available natural light, despite the ample size of the building’s windows. The basement received no natural light at all, creating a far from inviting atmosphere for the 3,500 or so Bishop’s and Champlain Regional College students who use the library.

Enter the architecture firm Lemay, which worked with Montreal-based LumiGroup, Quebec’s largest lighting agency, to provide a much-need interior revamp. The university is “surrounded by a beautiful forest of lush vegetation and large trees,” says Eric Pelletier, architect and associate at Lemay. “From the outset, one of our goals was to bring that natural beauty inside the building.”

The design team did so by prioritizing natural light during the day and by installing effective artificial lighting in the building’s reconfigured zones. The interventions have transformed the library from a cluttered, poorly illuminated facility bordering on obsolescence to a multifunctional space ideal for study, reading, discussions, meetings and lectures.

During the first phase of the refresh, the architects did significant work opening up and reorganizing the facility, making it easier for students to move from floor to floor and giving the library a new, more welcoming identity.

Upon entering the building, its large windows and new vertical lighting now “inspire a sense of clarity and serenity,” Pelletier says. “The L191 pendant lamps by MP Lighting reflect the library’s unique identity,” the architect adds, noting that “the entrance zone is also the only place where we installed those particular lights.”

In order to orient users and to create visual links from floor to floor, a large wooden spine was introduced on each level. “It snakes through the entire building, connecting each functional zone,” says Pelletier.

In addition, the design team reduced the number of existing stacks (which had become less needed as digital media began supplanting physical books) to both declutter the library and to bring in more daylight on the ground and second floors. In a high-traffic, wood-finished hub known as the Agora, the designers also introduced flexible new lighting that enhances its various functions and echoes the surrounding furniture.

Attractive black Max Cylinder fixtures by Lightheaded Lighting … were installed in the ceiling inside black baffles that help dampen sound,” says the architect. “They are almost invisible, melting perfectly into their surroundings. Dimmers make it possible to adjust the lighting for lectures.”

On the second floor, meanwhile, Lemay incorporated several new study rooms boasting large windows, allowing “students working in these rooms [to] enjoy bright lighting while feeling a sense of immersion in the surrounding landscape.”

And in the low-ceilinged basement, worktables were equipped with soft desk lights in the form of L161 linear LED lamps by MP Lighting, while the same company’s surface-mounted L106 fixtures now line the walls.

The latter fixtures, notes Pelletier, proved especially transformative on the library’s lowest level, which had long felt dark and cramped. “It no longer feels like a basement,” he says.

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