St. Clair/Silverthorn Library
Toronto Public Library
Michael Muraz Photography
St. Clair/Silverthorn Library is a new two-storey, 5,200 sf infill branch library located on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto. It replaces an existing derelict brick building constructed in the 1920’s, which was demolished. Main streets in large, busy urban centres such as Toronto will experience continual redevelopment with infill projects. Local governments can play a significant role in encouraging high quality developments, particularly when they are the client for projects such as public libraries.
As one of the first redevelopments onto the block in recent years, the new library will present a distinct identity from the streetscape without being overwhelming.
The front façade is a collage of brick and two-storey glass panels - a modern aesthetic that maximizes natural light penetration yet still pays homage to the history of the site. The robust fir timber structural system on the interior references the natural elements lacking from the busy streetscape. The stair lounge and the glazed façade that looks out onto the street play two roles: as both a veritable screen on which the streetscape becomes animated for the viewers inside, and a display window that invites pedestrians to enter and explore.
Raw materials highlight the library's design: poured and precast concrete form the surfaces while rough sawn Douglas fir provides structural support for the façade. Such honesty in materials draws the occupant in for its visual boldness and sustains a delight in the haptic experience only natural elements can provide. Although the existing library was demolished, red bricks were incorporated as a reference to the site's past. The structural system consists of concrete block exterior walls and core slab floor levels for efficiency in construction. The exterior glazing panels are hermetically sealed argon-filled double glazed units with triple silver low-E technology to reduce solar heat gain while maximizing daylighting. The mechanical and electrical systems are energy efficient. Light fixtures on both the exterior and interior are LED and toilet fixtures are dual flush, low-flow units to conserve water.
The new St. Clair/Silverthorn Library is designed to be adaptable to growth and changing demographics, but its presence will continue to serve both as an anchor to the community and as a symbol for an elevated standard of design in future developments.