Historians’ Library, Cambridge, Ontario

Dowling Architects, Paris, Ontario

Photography by Henry Dowling

For a historian couple, Dowling Architects created a new library behind their existing house. A cedar walkway nudges past a board-formed concrete garden wall, descending a few steps at each change in direction. Concrete steps, porch and walls embedded into the hillside provide the library’s base from which white-oak open-joint siding rises to meet the downturned U of the projecting corrugated-metal roof. Inside, operable windows offer cross-ventilation while high fixed glazing gives long views out. A closet, washroom and low niches for a sofa and the long desk stretch along the north wall. Douglas fir for the doors, windows, ceiling, bookshelves and interior walls, and black walnut for the desk and library-shelf ladder, add a feeling of warmth. Overhead and sliding interior shutters of lightweight fir plywood cover lower-level windows for privacy. Passive House features include air tightness and minimal thermal bridging. Insulated polished-concrete slabs provide a thermal mass that balances diurnal swings.