Diamond Schmitt’s latest library

The Brentwood Library re-opened today following a two-year renovation and expansion designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects. The updated library adds 30 per cent more public service, collection and staff space configured on a tight site in the suburb of Etobicoke.

The form of the original (1955) two-storey east wing is maintained and connects with a three-storey addition by a double-height Reading Room that houses the library’s main book collection and seating areas. This central spine features an exposed steel tension truss and wood roof as a sculptural element and fully glazed north and south elevations have clear and coloured translucent glass panels. Natural lighting is abundant throughout the library and all occupied spaces have windows and outdoor views.

The cladding consists of curtainwall, zinc panels, split-faced limestone masonry and charcoal-hued brick – materials that reference the adjacent precinct and the library’s siting between commercial interests to the south and residential to the north. Landscaping furthers this transition with the addition of benches and a shade park with shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials.

“This library reflects the multi-purpose role libraries serve in the community and provides a wide range of highly visible program space for group and individual activities,” says Donald Schmitt, principal with Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Next to the entrance hall on the main floor, the Urban Living Room comprises a lounge with soft seating around a fireplace with an original Group of Seven painting by A.J. Casson. This high-circulation area features computer stations, new fiction, periodicals and multi-media. A 90-seat community room serves as a quiet study area and supports public functions with audio-visual equipment and a kitchen. The balance of the ground floor contains the KidsStop Interactive Early Literacy Centre–intimately scaled zones according to age groups and story-time activity.

The second floor features another fireplace seating area, the adult book collections, a computer learning centre, a group study area and an enclosed Teen Zone with large screen TV. Office and support areas are located on the third floor.

Traditional and contemporary finishes create an elegant and playful interior. White glazed concrete block defines the spine which features vertical banded lighting. A rich chocolate carpet field connects program areas that have distinct floor colouring and patterns. Black walnut wood is used for all shelving, millwork, wall panels and benches. An array of contemporary colourful chairs, tables and loose furnishing further provide contrast and a sense of fun.

“We strive to make our branches welcoming, accessible and inspiring neighbourhood hubs, and I think the Brentwood Branch renovation has achieved these goals,” says Toronto Library Board chair Paul Ainslie.

Sustainable design initiatives include reusing the structure of the west portion of the former building’s foundation walls, steel columns and second floor assembly. The existing arched glulam beams and wood roof deck previously concealed by acoustic tiles have been restored and exposed. A high performance building envelope, energy-efficient mechanical features and a radiant floor heating system reduce energy consumption. A mechanized shading system controlled by light sensors enhances indoor lighting and control. An elevator was added and the groundfloor of the existing wing was lowered to grade, for full accessibility.

Diamond Schmitt Architects (www.dsai.ca) has designed more than 30 public and academic libraries that have garnered multiple awards for innovative design excellence. The firm provides sustainable design solutions for a wide range of building types, including academic and research facilities, the performing arts, healthcare, residential and recreational facilities.