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Drummondville Public Library central atrium, designed by Chevalier Morales

It’s more than a library. For the town of Drummondville, an hour’s drive east of Montreal, the new public library also doubles as an impressively multi-functional venue designed to host everything from stage performances and markets to hockey games and children’s day camps. The community hub epitomizes the renewed vitality of libraries in the 21st century.

Given the building’s ambitious public program, Chevalier Morales Architectes was a natural choice to design it. Renowned for gracefully incorporating a mix of uses into communal facilities, the Montreal-based architects (whose portfolio includes Montreal’s award-winning Maison de la littérature and Saul Bellow libraries) worked in partnership with DMA architectes to create a building that responds to – and enriches – its evolving urban milieu.

Framed by a simple envelope of opaque and transparent blue-tint and milky-white glazing, the curved complex presents an elegant (albeit subdued) facade to its downtown-adjacent surroundings. But the building’s restrained contours belie a much more expressive, sinuous interior.

At the heart of the library, two dramatically spiralling staircases knit together the building’s eclectic program. This double helix leads to the second storey, their sculptural form accentuated by the airy double-height atrium. Forming the library’s nerve centre, the marquee space draws in visitors from each of the building’s four entrances.

The four entrances animate the building’s frontages while creating an open layout that resembles the free-flowing circulation of a shopping mall. This fosters a relaxed, welcoming mood. Alongside the showpiece stairs, a ground-floor café offers a vital social space, with the quieter exhibition spaces, reading rooms, and print and digital collections all housed on the upper level.

With each entrance providing access to the central foyer, the complex is able to host evening events that selectively activate parts of the building with minimal disruption. After the library closes, visitors can still enter a multi-purpose space designed to accommodate a range of cultural and community events.

Equipped with full audio-visual equipment and extensive back of house facilities, the multi-purpose room can be configured as an enclosed black box theatre or a public forum for community meetings. During the day, however, it is arranged as an open gathering space that’s seamlessly integrated with the central atrium.

While the ingenious circulation and spatial flexibility supports an eclectic and community-oriented program, the complex is just as powerfully defined by Chevalier Morales and DMA’s deft understanding of light and ambiance. An abundance of natural sunlight is complemented by pleasantly streamlined finishes and subtle touches of warm wood, with public areas on both floors carefully situated to overlook the library’s garden and hockey rink.

Outside, new landscaping amplifies the library’s public-facing presence. The hockey rink and garden are joined by a ring of plantings and benches that frame the building, while a series of illuminated footpaths leads visitors to the entrances from every direction. As a hub of community and culture, the new Drummondville public library is all the more essential for reaching beyond its elegantly curved walls.

Chevalier Morales Designs an Audaciously Curvy Library in Quebec

A sophisticated design elevates the eclectically varied program of Drummondville’s new public library.

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