Set back from the historic façades of the city’s quaint downtown, Charlottetown’s brutalist Dominion Building has asserted a handsome — yet somewhat isolated and imposing — presence since its construction in the 1950s. Originally built as a government office building, the six-storey complex was converted into residential apartments in the early 2010s. A decade later, it welcomes another new chapter via the addition of an inviting (and eye-catching) new library branch on its ground floor.
Designed by local architects Nine Yards Studio in collaboration with Halifax-based MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, the 3,250-square-metre Charlottetown Library Learning Centre takes advantage of the Dominion Building’s setback frontage to introduce a street-facing pavilion. Topped by a cantilevered portico, the complex meets Queen Street with a sheltered outdoor space — including a generous terrace — that frames the light-filled library.
Clad almost entirely in glass, the sleek new pavilion announces the sociable spaces within. Fronting the street and the outdoor terrace, a casual café and seating area blurs the boundary between the interior and the outdoors.
Past the entrance, the space is organized around a central corridor that allows for easy and intuitive wayfinding through the library’s diverse program.
Characterized by blonde wood finishes, ample natural light and playful circular forms, the complex unfolds in a combination of communal spaces and quieter zones. Alongside a physical collection of books and media, the mixed-use library features a maker space, recording studios, programming areas, meeting rooms, breakout spaces, an administration wing, public computers, accessible and gender-neutral washrooms, as well as a community learning kitchen.
The children’s area is a highlight. Elevated slightly above the rest of the library, the dynamic space affords the youngsters a panoramic view of the complex. Additionally, a flexible community gathering space — which hosts regular after-hours events — features movable walls that allow the room to accommodate up to 500 people.
Accented by pops of solid colour — including bright furnishings and wall details — the Charlottetown Library Learning Centre integrates education, community-building and social spaces into an inviting all-day hub. And at the end of the corridor? The new library introduces a second terrace at the back of the Dominion Building, opening out to the greenery of Charlottetown’s Connaught Square Park. It all adds up to a dynamic new space carved out from a brutalist icon.
Nine Yards Studio and MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects carve out a library and community centre within a brutalist complex.