December 16, 2014
by Canadian Architect
The new Halifax Central Library opened to the public on December 13, 2014, and its open and welcoming design reflects the city’s diverse population and heritage. An international competition held in 2010 resulted in Danish firm schmidt hammer lassen architects and local firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell winning the contract to design the 15,000-square-metre library sited on a prominent location in the heart of Halifax. A cultural hub accessible to everyone, the building is a catalyst for the regeneration of the downtown area and the product of an extensive co-creation process involving monthly public consultations and workshops with various focus groups.
The exterior of the library appears as four rectangular shapes placed on top of one another and skewed to reflect the strong directional axes present in the immediate neighbourhood.
“Halifax is a city whose maritime heritage calls for attention when designing a new public building. Therefore, the historical axis between the Halifax Citadel and the Halifax Harbour, crossing right through the library site, is reflected in the orientation of the fifth floor of the building containing the Halifax Living Room, providing not only a unique view but also an understanding of the city’s historical heritage,” explains Founding Partner Morten Schmidt of schmidt hammer lassen architects.
The interior of the library reflects the diversity of the exterior with stairs and bridges in the atrium connecting the five storeys. The light-filled atrium gives an overview of the wide range of facilities the library offers, including a 300-seat performance space, two cafés, gaming stations, music studios, dedicated space for adult literacy classes, a First Nations reading circle, and boardrooms for local entrepreneurs. The entire second floor is dedicated to children and young adults with areas designed for each age group, ranging from toddlers to teens.
“The new Halifax Central Library is a modern, hybrid library. It combines the best of a traditional library with new and innovative programmes and facilities,” explains Partner Chris Hardie from schmidt hammer lassen architects. “By designing a library that is adaptable we embrace multiple functions to ensure that the library will meet the needs of the Halifax community into the future. People should see this building not only as a library but as a free public space in the heart of the city.”
On the topic of modern libraries, Morten Schmidt adds: “Modern libraries are one of the most important platforms for exchanging knowledge. As opposed to information found on the internet, the knowledge that arises through collaboration and exchange between people in a library is of particular significance. The new Halifax Central Library is a cultural hub, a vital centre for learning and a civic landmark for the entire community.”
schmidt hammer lassen architects has an extensive track record of designing libraries; the most renowned of these may be the extension to the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark and the RIBA Award-winning University of Aberdeen New Library in Scotland. Earlier this year, the first library designed by the architectural practice in Canada was opened in Edmonton. In 2015 DOKK1, the new public library in Aarhus, Denmark, will be completed; it will be the largest of its kind in Scandinavia.
halifax central library exterior. adam mrk.
halifax central library interior. adam mrk.