This gorgeous new library just an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto is a true civic center with its welcoming light-filled spaces nestled into a hillside. Canadian design firm RDHA recently completed the green-roofed Waterdown Library in Hamilton, built to replace a smaller municipal building and designed with a strong focus on sustainability. The new 23,500-square-foot building houses the traditional library functions as well as several other civic spaces including two community multipurpose rooms, the Waterdown Public Archive, a satellite municipal services outlet, a community information office, and police services.



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The Waterdown Library’s cantilevered form draws inspiration from its surrounding landscape of the Niagara Escarpment, a massive rock ridge that overlooks Lake Ontario. RDHA writes: “The design process for this 23,500 square foot facility began with an acknowledgement of its dramatic site on the Niagara escarpment. Taking advantage of the topography to provide expression and access to the different programmatic elements in the building, the scheme engages and responds to the site by creating an architectural promenade that culminates in elevated south-facing views to Dundas street, the escarpment and Lake Ontario beyond.”

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By nestling the library into the hillside, the architects disguise the library’s bulk and create a building that looks one-story from the exterior but actually contains six levels. The slab-like building cantilevers over ten feet towards the southwest to mimic the escarpment’s rocky outcrop. Floor-to-ceiling glazing wraps around the building to lessen the library’s monolithic appearance. The building is also clad in four-inch-thick locally quarried limestone panels and sixteen-foot-high solar fins.

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Related: Golden Gate Valley Library is a Solar-Powered LEED Gold Renovation in San Francisco

The library’s focus on energy efficiency begins with reliance on natural lighting thanks to the full-height glazing and sawtooth-style skylights. Solar heat gain is mitigated by the ceramic frit pattern on the double-glazed, argon-filled, low E-glass. Douglas fir used for solar shading and for interior cladding and furnishing was sourced from the demolished Hamilton Central Library. Recycled, low-VOC, and local materials are used throughout the building. A sloping green roof tops the library, while bioswales filter and funnel stormwater runoff into an underground rainwater collection system. The Waterdown Library has become a major gathering place for the Hamilton community and the greater region, and has seen a 150 percent increase in visitor numbers compared to the old library it replaced.

+ RDHA

Via Architectural Record

Images via Tom Arban

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Waterdown Library and Civic Center, Waterdown Library and Civic Center by RDHA, Waterdown Library and Civic Center in Ontario, beautiful library architecture, sustainable libraries, energy efficient library design, library and civic center design

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