Library Tour: Vancouver Central Library

It’s time for another trip to the library, this time I’m heading north to Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the best cities in the world with one of the most interesting library designs I’ve seen.

The Vancouver Central Library

So what do you do when you want a new library, but you aren’t sure how people feel about your desire? Well, if you’re the City of Vancouver, you hold an election.

In 1990, a strong majority of Vancouver’s citizens said in their cute little Canadian accents, “Hell yes, we want a new library,” so the budgeting and designing began on what would be later known as Library Square.

To foot the bill of some of the construction, the plan was to incorporate an office building and retail space into the structure which is just damn smart thinking. Because libraries need to maintain a sort of escape-from-the-world feeling the city didn’t just want to plunk down a library on the lower floors of an office building, so a design contest was held.

Front of the Vancouver Central Library. The ellipse and the side wall.
Front of the Vancouver Central Library. The ellipse and the side wall.

Turns out the design that city officials thought was the most wacky turned out to be the one that the voters loved. The winner, Moshe Safdie, also designed the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and many other public buildings across Canada.

From the winning design, chosen in 1992, to opening day took three years and the result is amazing. The design practically hides the office building so you hardly notice its presence, but the real show is the library and its surrounding public spaces.

The library is a rectangular building, nothing spectacular, right? Wrong. Because around the building is an elliptical structure that resembles the Colosseum in Rome giving the whole block a mega-WOW factor. Add to this that there is a second wall set to the side of the main structure that wraps around to create a gorgeous public space with places to have a coffee or just sit and people watch. To match Vancouver’s City of Glass reputation, this public space receives plenty of light from a glass ceiling.

Interior public space - side wall at the right, library is to the left.

Interior public space – side wall at the right, library is to the left.

Although not open to the public, the library features a roof top garden that captures rain water and provides homes to city-dwelling birds. The library itself is nine stories high, but the top two stories are leased out to the province. If the library needs to expand in the future, it will be able to use these two extra floors.

The Central Library is located at 350 West Georgia Street which is just a block away from Robson Street which is a food lovers dream street (as is Denman Street).

Been to the Vancouver Central Library? What did you think? Share your thoughts or your favorite place in Vancouver!

NOT, the Vancouver Central Library!NOT, the Vancouver Central Library!
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