New Halifax Central Library, Canada

Halifax Central Library

The new Halifax Central Library is the most significant public building that represents the diverse communities, talents, and creativity of the residents of Halifax throughout the municipality.

Halifax Central Library Canada

As the new Halifax Central Library opens to the public recently, the citizens of Halifax, Canada, have been given a civic landmark which has already received international recognition. Designed by Danish schmidt hammer lassen architects and local firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell, the library is located in the heart of Halifax, and stands as a multifunctional cultural hub with direct accessibility to the vibrant surrounding urban context of historic and new buildings, and the buzz of downtown. The library building stands as a reflection of the diversity of the community and the modern life within the municipality as a whole, and as a flagship for all 14 branch libraries servicing the whole municipality.

Halifax Library Canada

Project at a Glance
Design Architect: schmidt hammer lassen architects
Prime Consultant Architect :Fowler Bauld & Mitchell
Client: Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Public Libraries
Area: 15,000 m2
Construction budget: € 33 million excl. VAT
Competition: 2010, 1st prize in international competition
Status: Construction period 2011-2014
Sustainability: Targeting LEED Gold certification
Photographer: Adam Mørk

Halifax Library

Halifax Library Canada
The exterior of the library appears cubic in form with four rectangular shapes placed on top of one another and horizontally twisted to relate to the two diagonal directions that are dominant in the otherwise orthogonal grid of the city. A number of distinctive cantilevers and one signature larger cantilevered element create an everlasting expression whereas the façades align elegantly with the neighbouring façade of the classic architecture of Dalhousie University's Architecture School. From the top of the building - the Halifax Living Room - there is access to an open green roof terrace providing a unique view towards Halifax Harbour, Citadel Hill, the historic George's Island, Dartmouth and onto McNabs Islands that reaches out towards the North Atlantic Ocean.

"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 hereby 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.

Halifax Site Plan

New Halifax Central Library

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.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Halifax City Canada

Halifax Library Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

"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."

Central Library Halifax

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."

Central Library Canada

The new Central Library building is a catalyst for the regeneration of the downtown area and the product of an extensive co-creation process where every stage of the architectural design process has been carried out through extensive monthly public consultations and workshops with various focus groups. The citizens of Halifax had well supported this initiative by participating in these events and providing important contributions, for instance the way green space is represented within the building and how light is brought into the building, the establishment of private spaces and also the priority of seating and workspaces.

Modern Hybrid Library

The project is aiming ambitiously towards a LEED Gold certification. The façade of the building is intended to reflect the local history of the site which was once a central local 'garden' and significant green space within the heart of the city. An abstracted 'leaf' motif of varying densities creates a façade that appears more solid in some areas, yet fully open in others reflecting the strong seasonal nature of the much loved trees that surround the site. The approach is to combine this local reference with that of a Scandinavian design signature and to create a modern hybrid library building that will stand out from other public buildings.

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.
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