With the opening of the 1,500-square-metre library in Edmonton, the city gains a new outpost for not only books, but for all the other functions of a contemporary social and creative hub as well. With 200 square metres more interior space than the 1962 library it replaces, the new branch also accommodates larger children’s and adult reading areas, a dedicated teen space, quiet study and reading areas, and 18 public computer stations.
Working with local firm Marshall Tittemore Architects, Schmidt Hammer Lassen conceived a building footprint that is essentially Y-shaped, splitting the stacks between wings for children, teens and adults, with the librarians’ desk at the central junction where they can readily offer assistance to all. The outer corners of the roofline are raised, creating space below for a second-storey reading room that’s elevated above the first-floor traffic for added isolation, while fully maintaining sightlines to the rest of the interior.
This pitched roofline echoes the surrounding low-rise architecture, while giving the library a distinctive profile. Silvery metallic cladding and large windows add to the building’s contemporary look. These windows are crucial to instilling the library with its sense of approachability; from any direction, whether by car, by bus, or on foot, visitors to the branch can see directly into the library’s central space.
“The library pavilion acts like a beacon in the community,” says founding partner Morten Schmidt, “and the transparency and openness contribute to its social hub function, which is essential for a modern library.” This is enhanced by the public garden that surrounds the library, designed by landscape and architecture firm Dialog; a swath of trees extends from each side, while the street-facing sidewalk holds a row of concrete benches that extend the pitched-roof motif.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen has made libraries something of a specialty, with a portfolio that includes some of the most impressive examples of the modern library in recent years – such as the Aberdeen New Library – with more on the way, including DOKK1, which will be the largest public library in Scandinavia when it opens in Aarhus, Denmark, next spring.