North York Central Library

  • area / size 170,000 sqft
  • Completed 2021
  • Location Toronto, Canada,
  • Diamond Schmitt Architects renovated a space to update the beloved North York Central Library in Toronto, Canada.

    The North York Central Library is a vibrant hub of circulation and usage, serving a local community as well as providing services to the entire city of Toronto as one of only two research and reference libraries. Well connected to public transit and anchoring the north face of a civic square, the library and its dramatic 7-storey atrium play a critical role as a public gathering space and a focal point for a diverse and rapidly growing community.

    Designed originally in 1987—after nearly three decades, this seven-storey, postmodern building required renovations. In 2014, the Toronto Public Library determined that a comprehensive retrofit would help the North York Central Library meet current service standards and prepare for the needs of the the 21st-century. Public, staff and infrastructural systems were holistically renewed.

    The architect set out to create a new identity for the library that responded to the changing use and role of the space. Recognizing that the library today is expanding beyond its traditional role as a place to support knowledge, the firm looked to assist the library in transitioning to an emerging and additional role as a “third space” – the social spaces in our everyday lives that complement our living and working spaces.

    With the highest circulation numbers in Toronto’s library system, the architectural transformation represents a complete rethinking of how libraries can serve diverse communities and bring them together.

    The building’s dramatic seven-storey atrium was re-imagined as a transparent and animated set of social spaces for circulation, informal meeting, and study. A new grand staircase frames the atrium, greeting visitors, connecting the first floor to the second, and improving circulation.

    A variety of warm chromatic seating and collaboration spaces were introduced including study table seating and group study rooms. Around the edges of the atrium, counter and amphitheatre seating and media lounges take advantage of the natural light and bring new life and dynamism to the 7-storey space.

    A new Creation Loft on the second floor includes a Digital Innovation Lab with 3D printing, sound and video recording studios, a fabrication studio with sewing equipment and music practice rooms with acoustic glass walls.

    Zones for adults, teens and children are created with unique environments and interactive displays. New service points and promotional areas are distributed throughout the building with intuitive self-serve information supported by library staff.

    The advanced children’s department, KidStop, educates and informs the next generation of Torontonians by way of themed learning and a literacy centre. It contains interactive and electronic learning stations, supporting preschool literacy as well as children with special needs.

    The lower level of the library is a 6,000 square foot flexible space that functions as a 200-person event space as well as a teen study hall centring around a new custom designed stage. To support events, the lighting and furniture can be reconfigured to accommodate author talks, conferences, banquets and weddings.

    Design: Diamond Schmitt Architects
    Photography: courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects