Saturday September 24th marked the grand opening of Bing Thom Architects’ latest project, the Surrey City Centre Library. Adjacent to the Central City project housing the SFU Surrey Campus, the new library is the first development in what will eventually include the new Surrey City Hall as well as a large public plaza, arts centre, parkade, and commercial space.
The library incorporates green features to achieve LEED certification, including a partial green roof to capture rainwater, huge external windows to provide natural light, and the capacity to add geothermal heating once the new City Hall is completed.
The library is also the largest in Surrey at 82,000 square feet, and the third largest in the Vancouver area, after the Bob Prittie Metrotown and Vancouver Central libraries. While this means that the new library will be able to hold an extensive 150,000 book collection, including materials in 17 languages, the design recognizes that library patrons seek more than just books at the library. It is designed as a focal point and meeting place for the surrounding community, and uses different levels of space to provide for public activities in the more open levels, to private reading and study in the more contained areas. The library incorporates many meeting rooms, a café (which library traditionalists will cringe at), and 80 public computers, and is built in such a way as to make people feel at ease.
Because of the time constraints placed on the funding of the project, BTA used a novel form of public consultation that dramatically reduced the completion time of the project while keeping it on budget. Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were used to engage the public and circumvent a lengthy public meeting process.
I checked out the madness at the opening, and I was very impressed by the sense of openness inside the building, despite the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the main atrium. Call it architectural white space if you will, but the less formal atmosphere of the library should do an excellent job at drawing a more diverse crowd inside the space, compared to some of the older, more cramped libraries in the city.
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