Agincourt District Library

“A lot of people,  particularly newcomers, come to the library to read newspapers. It’s not that they can’t afford to buy their own. They come to meet people, to feel part of a community.” – Suk Yin Ng, Senior Branch Librarian

Making a place to read, to meet people and connect together as a community usually starts with a plot of land. When we were asked to design this 2,700 square meter neighbourhood library, we had an organized client, a well-defined program of requirements, a fixed budget and a schedule. What we didn’t have was a site.

As a part of a complex agreement with the City, several of Canada’s largest developers had promised to provide a suitable site for a new library within an ambitious mixed-use development. For many months, the developers and their designers proposed, negotiated, revised, amended and reconsidered. We coveted a triangular parcel, awkward and residual to the developers’ primary needs, but central to an as yet unbuilt community.

We sketched a design that made no assumptions about the scale and character of the future adjacent developments. Uncertain views and unknown neighbouring uses suggested to us a building that looked inward. At the heart of our design, we placed a huge pyramidal skylight above a two storey rotunda.

Organized on two triangular floor plates around this brilliantly daylit volume are circulating collections. To the south are staff facilities and a grand staircase leading to supervised reference collection and study spaces. On the east, dramatic single storey spaces for children and multi-purpose community uses. Cutting across the entire site, a red vaulted prism houses shared support spaces such as washrooms, exit stairs and mechanical rooms.

Today, this community library anchors a flourishing neighbourhood of 60,000. For its imaginative planning and forward-looking approach to context, the project was awarded a City of Scarborough Urban Design Award. Agincourt District Library boasts the highest circulation among all of the 98 City branches. It’s sometimes difficult to find a newspaper to read.

‘More than just a shared living room, this public library is one of Toronto’s greatest cultural treasures.’ – ‘The Origami’