Awards of Excellence 2004 – Hespeler Library

Cambridge, Ontario

Kongats Architects

The Hespeler Library is an existing community public library located in the Village of Hespeler in Cambridge, Ontario. Its history is rooted in the manufacturing and textile milling industries, which was particularly active during the first half of the last century. The library is located in the village’s historic core and its redevelopment is a large component of the City of Cambridge’s plan to reinvigorate the area’s potential for recreational, tourist and cultural uses. The intention to redevelop the existing library rather than build a new facility reinforces the notion of preserving local history while providing the capital cost savings of building on a greenfields site.

The project addresses three key issues: shortage in space, site context, and the unification of several past renovations and additions made to the original Carnegie building. The library will remain on the northeast corner of Tannery and Adam Streets in Hespeler’s historic core, while the proposed redevelopment is located to the east of the existing building.

The architectural image of the redeveloped library conveys a unified, accessible and contemporary quality achieved by delicately enveloping the existing building with a new transparent structure extending along Adam Street and the newly relocated entrance along Tannery Street. The materiality of the envelope pays homage to Hespeler’s history as a textile town by layering a woven wire cloth and a ceramic fretted pattern within panes of glass. The modulated density of the layering of materials within the panes of glass around the building permits varying degrees of opacity and transparency, and also allows natural light to penetrate deep into the space while reducing glare. The density of layering almost disappears completely at the front faade of the Carnegie building, thus revealing the showcase object.

The area of the facility will increase from an existing 7,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet, organized on two levels connected by stairs and a double-height space located around the perimeter of the Carnegie building. The design for the redevelopment originates with the existing building and has evolved into a series of visually and physically linked spaces defined by differing architectural qualities of size, materials, light and views. The design opposes the modern standard of a library as a neutral warehouse space with unlimited flexibility and an undefined physical presence. In order to ensure the relevancy of the library redevelopment design for the future, anticipated growth areas within the building have been accommodated without sacrifice to the architecturally defined spaces in the current design so that each of the individual rooms will maintain its intended use while being capable of absorbing volume increases.

Monteyne: Of all the entries, it is this project that best exemplifies the potential of architecture to create exceptional experiences within the realm of day to day life. The parti of this project is simplicity itself, and yet complexity and exceptional beauty result from the subtle variations in the plan and manipulation of tectonic elements such as cladding.

Shnier: The proverbial “ship-in-a-bottle,” this proposal is straightforward and unapologetic in the way in which it subsumes the historic structure. This practical and bold proposition is unencumbered by extraneous architectural mumbo-jumbo. For this project to be possible, it would have to have a client that is as fluent in the potential of the gesture as the architect is.

Yarinsky: This is a clear, elegant solution to the problem of expanding an existing historic building. Old and new co-exist in an unexpected way through conceiving of the new as a kind of “wrapper,” rather than a separate building. The fine scale of the texture of this “wrapper” defers to the character of the existing building. At the same time, the wrapper is not neutral, but is composed of several layers that change to achieve varying levels of transparency.

Client: Cambridge Libraries and Galleries

Architect team: Alar Kongats, Sofia Di Sabatino, Philip Toms, Danielle Lam-Kulczak, Samer Hoot, Tim Lee

Structural: Egberts Engineering Ltd.

Mechanical: Lam Associates Ltd.

Electrical: Lam Associates Ltd.

Area: 14,000 ft2

Budget: $3.2 million

Completion: 2006