Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library is the public library system for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and includes 22 locations. It is the third-largest public library system in Canada. During the late 19th century, the American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was giving money to cities and towns to build libraries. In 1901, the City of Vancouver approached Carnegie about donating money for a new library and he provided $50,000 to build the library if Vancouver would provide free land and $5,000 annually to support its operation. The first building was designed by Vancouver architect George Grant in the Romanesque Renaissance style, was eventually replaced with a modernist building on Burrard and then moved in 1995, to its current location on Library Square. The City held a design competition and chose the design by Moshe Safdie and DA Architects – the most radical and yet the public favorite. (Wikipedia photo below)


The program included a 21 story office as part of a deal with the federal government to obtain the land and fund the project. Library Square occupies a full city block in Downtown Vancouver. Centered on the block, the library is a nine-story rectangular box containing book stacks and services, surrounded by a free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded “thick wall”.


The rectangular ‘box’ contains most of the working functions of the library in an orderly cruciform circulation pattern with a bit of a plain though not unpleasant character.


This ‘wall’ features reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells.


The carrels themselves attract users partly by their separation from the busier parts of the building and partly by their adjacency to the large windows.


The library’s internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This glass-roofed concourse serves as an entry foyer to the library and the more lively pedestrian activities at ground level.


A dynamic cut in the main floor offers access to the floor below


And in a nod to technology, books are moved by carrousel and belts, just as your luggage is at the airport.



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