Christie Pearson is an artist, architect, writer, teacher and urban interventionist. She is a Partner in the design firm Team Project, founding member and editor of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy and Adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture, University of Waterloo.

Based in Toronto.
christie [at] christiepearson [dot] ca

KITCHENER PUBLIC LIBRARY

2014

Project Architect: David Warne with Christie Pearson at LGA Architectural Partners

Client: City of Kitchener

110,000 SF

LGA worked with the Kitchener Public Library on two feasibility studies prior to being retained for the building project. Both studies concluded that the heritage building marked a significant period of modernist architecture in Kitchener and should be retained and renovated, with a new addition incorporating a 3-storey underground City-operated parking garage for 400 cars. The library sits on a corner of a site originally conceived in the 1960s as part of a grand public space of a precinct called The Civic District. The existing library was designed by the renowned Kitchener Architect Carl Reider and completed in 1962. With the original elevations listed as a historically significant asset, the renovations required a unique response to upgrade the building envelope while preserving its historic value. An innovative curtain wall system was designed based on the golden rectangle proportions of the original building, thereby providing a motif linking old and new. One of the significant technical aspects of the glazing system is that it provides a triple-pane anti-reflective glass skin “draped” over the original facade, preserving the visibility of the elevation while increasing thermal performance. The LEED Gold energy target is achieved with this curtain wall system by balancing areas of window and spandrel: 1/3 triple-pane clear glass, 1/3 white-coloured spandrel, and 1/3 light-diffusing glazing, in a pleasing overall pattern that maximizes light and views while maintaining a heat-loss acceptable to the engineers. The interior layout is designed with future flexibility in mind so that new trends in library design can easily be implemented. In addition, the new design aims to bring the outside in by incorporating a new glass- enclosed reading porch nestled into new landscaping in the front of the building and a new outdoor children’s reading courtyard. This exterior amenity space incorporates a historic gaol wall adjacent to the site. There is a new planted roof on the second floor roof garden, an exterior living curtain wall, and a native plant xeroscaping. The interior design re-invigorates the finest aspects of the existing building and introduces natural light deep into the building through contemporary interventions. The new glass elevation leads through the original vestibule into a new atrium – an elegant orientation space carved out of the existing building with a clerestory that fills the space with light. The original Reading Room is re-imagined as a generous public space cradled below a starry ceiling, the inspiration for which came from the original homework room. A gap is left between the old and new buildings to see the original full-height stone elevations while harvesting natural light deep into the reading rooms. The new addition is composed of tall windows that provide views of the surrounding historic public buildings while light-diffusing panels are positioned to increase the overall light ambience. This addition includes a white concrete waffle slab structural system which simultaneously increases the ceiling height, provides sound attenuation and offers a heroic modern coffered environment.

Published: Canadian Architect, Globe and Mail

Photos: Ben Rahn