Low Hammond Rowe Architects complete addition to Nanaimo North Branch Library

The Nanaimo North Branch Library project serves to establish a much needed new branch library in the north end of Nanaimo and modernize and reinvigorate the existing Central Services building owned and operated by the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL), which services its 38 library branches across Vancouver Island.

The building is situated on the north side of Hammond Bay Road on a naturally wooded site, defined by significant Douglas fir and pine trees, and is flanked by a forested lot to the west, a one-storey fire hall to the east, and backs onto an existing seniors’ housing complex to the north.

Inspiration for the design and renovation of this building was derived from the majestic trees that surround and occupy the site, to connect with the natural beauty that resonates as the sunlight filters through the fir trees throughout the day. The aim was to embrace our connection to nature by capturing the filtered daylight deep into the heart of the building and allow views, from base to limb, of the very trees being preserved. Internally, the building incorporates substantial Douglas fir glulam columns and beams and solid fir decking, harvested and produced in BC, to support the primary public gathering spaces in the library, signifying to the visitor the strength and beauty of this valued natural resource.

The new library addition was located on the south side of the site to ensure that the most significant public function would be located facing the street, while preserving the central services functions of shipping/receiving and administration at the rear of the site. The main entrance to the facility is located at the intersection between these two structures, allowing visitors to enter into the centre of the building. With the removal of a narrow portion of the existing building, the new library extends out into the landscape on both sides, delineating the programmatic complexities of the library functions though “ribbons” of space, articulated with undulating plan and roof forms that weave through the building in layers, creating spatial transitions that are punctuated with natural light. This dissection of the “box” provides for a greater connection to the landscape from within, allowing bands of natural light to filter into the library. The clerestory windows make an important visual connection to the tall trees surrounding the site, many of which have been carefully preserved through the undulating building form.

Being a brownfield site, the project embraces sustainability by extending the life of the existing building through end-of-life upgrades to the building mechanical system, lighting, windows, building envelope and finishes. A new sprinkler system was installed throughout and existing cladding was replaced with new locally sourced tongue-in-groove cedar siding. Structural upgrades were made to existing wood posts and trusses with PSL beams and steel columns to increase the seismic resistance of the existing wood structure. New finishes incorporate natural maple wood veneer products to enhance the warmth and to complement the Douglas fir structures.

The new one-storey Nanaimo North Library is approximately 17,600 square feet and is attached to and occupies a portion of the existing Central Services building, which currently houses VIRL’s system-wide services; administration, technical services, IT, HR, finance, purchasing, and shipping/receiving departments. The library provides community access to physical and digital media, a children’s and family area, teen area, an adult fiction/non-fiction section, a periodical lounge, a laptop bar, computer work stations, study rooms, a community meeting room and a variety of seating arrangements equipped with power and wireless connections.

The building is divided into two parts, a branch library and a central services facility. This required an addition of 11,950 square feet, the deconstruction of 7,000 square feet, and the renovation of the remaining 17,000 square feet of space. The total building area rings in at 28,950 square feet. 

For more information, please visit www.lhra.ca/portfolio-items/nanaimo-north-library-2-2/?portfolioID=5179