Robarts Common

U of T’s Robarts Common breaks ground

Monday, July 24, 2017

The University of Toronto’s Robarts Library, Canada’s largest academic library, is receiving a major expansion that will add 1,200 work and study spaces to the facility, which is recognized as an iconic example of the 1960s Brutalist style of architecture.

Robarts Common, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, is comprised of a five-storey, glass-enclosed addition along the building’s west side. The original concept for Robarts Library included three pods surrounding the core of the library, but only two were built. They now house the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Faculty of Information iSchool. The new student space completes the plan, which occupies an entire block in downtown Toronto.

“We’re adding a range of options for studying, both individual as well as more socially-oriented, collaborative settings to learn,” said Gary McCluskie, principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects, in a press release. “Robarts Common will have its own entrance and plaza connecting to the street and be much more transparent, much less intimidating than the original.”

Robarts Common’s wraparound glass façade and wood accents contrast greatly from the existing concrete structure of Robarts, yet Diamond Schmitt created a relationship between the old and new. “The height is the same as the other wings and we wanted to fit with the geometry of the existing building and reference the triangle form in how the glazing is framed,” said McCluskie.

The freestanding expansion will connect with the existing building through a four-storey bridge. In addition to adding traditional study carrels and reading tables, Robarts Common will also feature amphitheatre-style seating on levels two through five and 32 group study rooms. The building will be Wi-Fi accessible and allow wireless printing throughout the facility.

“This expansion will increase study space by 25 per cent and make a huge difference,” said U of T chief librarian Larry Alford. “It’s about creating space for students to do new and different kinds of things, a space for social learning. Some students want places where you can hear a pin drop, and others need space to work with each other… This addition will add to the mix of those kinds of spaces.”

The new addition will feature sustainable design aspects, including a rainfall recycling system, green roof and an electronic rolling blind system to control the amount of light and solar gain coming through the glass façade of the building.

Diamond Schmitt previously completed a multi-year renovation of Robarts Library that opened up corridors and stacks to invite daylight deeper into the facility, improved study space, data infrastructure, way-finding and transformed two exterior porticos into entry halls.

The addition of the new wing is the first expansion of the library since it opened in 1973. Construction is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year.

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