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Governor General’s Medal Winner: Drummondville Library

WINNER OF A 2020 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S MEDAL IN ARCHITECTURE

The curved forms of the library are clad in a milky-white envelope of glass panels. Photo by Adrien Williams

LOCATION Drummondville, Quebec
ARCHITECT Chevalier Morales and DMA architectes in consortium

Two hundred years ago, a garrison of soldiers-turned-farmers founded Drummondville, Quebec. Later, a railway bridge was constructed over the nearby St. François River. Beginning in 1919, a series of hydroelectric dams on that same river allowed the city to develop an industrial economy, serviced by rail and powered by turbines.

In recent years, the city has made a difficult economic transition. Drummondville’s new library is a symbol and a synthesis of these redevelopment efforts, embodying the municipality’s forward-looking attitude.

The areas surrounding the perimeter were carefully planned with landscaping, public paths and a community ice rink. Photo by Chevalier Morales

The library is closely connected to a neighbouring ice rink—an important locus of identity for a municipality that is the hometown of over a dozen professional hockey players. A heat exchange loop links the rink’s compressors and the library’s heating system. The rink and its surrounding outdoor space accommodate a variety of seasonal uses, including festivals, day camps, Christmas markets and concerts.

Inside, the building features a vast double-height space with a grand stair, inspired by the local turbines. Ascending the two off-centre helical staircases allows for views towards the exhibition areas, a garden adjacent the periodical lounge, and other parts of the library. A large intermediate landing serves a double function: it provides a literal overview of the library’s collections, while also inviting visitors to pause, converse or change direction.

A double-helicoid staircase alludes to local hydroelectric turbines. Photo by Adrien Williams

A duo of reading gardens extends up to the second level, forming an axis that divides the floor into two zones. To the north is the fiction collection; to the south, the adult non-fiction collection. A set of bleachers, set alongside the teen area, connects the youth and adult sections, providing a space for families with a privileged view of the outdoor rink and its winter sports.

The exterior cladding of the building includes a glass envelope that gives the project a smooth, continuous appearance. In order to optimize energy performance, three different types of glass panels are used: opaque glass panels that conceal insulated walls, fritted glass panels to control solar gain, and transparent panels to frame views of the site and provide natural light for work, lounge and reading areas. Perforated steel panels are installed behind fritted and transparent glass panels in select parts of the envelope, creating visual depth and speaking to the city’s industrial past.

Slot-like skylights and courtyards allow daylight to fill the two-storey library. Photo by Adrien Williams

:: Jury Comments ::  The jury applauds the local authorities who commissioned this detailed, delicate and well-resolved building. Placed next to a suburban hockey arena, the library uses stylized curves to great effect. The design benefits from robust visual and physical connections that unite architectural experiences inside the library with the landscaping. The all-white interior offers graceful swoops of walls and stairs, all raked by sweeps of natural light.

Read the Canadian Architect review of this project here.

PROJECT TEAM Chevalier Morales architectes—Stephan Chevalier, Sergio Morales, Alexandre Massé, Ève Beaumont-Cousineau. DMA architectes—Céline Leclerc, François Lemoine, Michèle Malette | CLIENT Ville de Drummondville—Marie-Ève Berthiaume, bibliothécaire, service au public | OCCUPANCY September 7, 2017 | BUDGET $21 M

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