April 8, 2018

Jasper Place Branch | New Landmark Libraries 2015 Winner


Beats a New Social Heart

Jasper Place Branch | Edmonton Public Library | Alberta, Canada
ARCHITECT: HCMA Architecture + Design


OPENED: 2013
COST: $14 million
LEED Silver Certified

When the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, had an opportunity to rebuild the Jasper Place Branch of the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), the 2014 Gale/LJ Library of the Year, it aspired to create an open and memorable presence that considered the question: “What is a library that has no books?” In response to this provocative inquiry, the new branch provides the established suburban neighborhood with a new social heart. While the resulting library does not literally lack a print collection, compared to the library it replaces, it is twice as big yet holds fewer titles than the old building. Architectural features, such as extra wide stairs, pull double duty in this new building—serving both functional and social needs by offering space for patrons to sit.

The branch library serves a mixed clientele, around 40,000 people from both some of the most and least affluent neighborhoods in Edmonton. According to Linda Cook, then-CEO of EPL, “The overall result is an open, inviting, and memorable public space that provides a strong presence in a neighborhood that has lacked meaningful indoor public space.” In its new form, the library continues to serve as a cornerstone to the community, just as it has since first opening in 1961.

Taking inspiration from the original building, the exterior and the interior of the library mirror each other with undulating forms. The highly reflective roof sets the organic and lively tone by hovering over the interior library space—and it reduces the building’s heat island effect. As patrons move through the space, they are encouraged to arrange or re­arrange the furniture to suit their needs. Furnishings and finishes were selected for durability and in keeping with the contemporary and relaxed aesthetic of the structure. The heavy-duty rubberized flooring in the children’s area mimics a beach and body of water. While the library houses a mini–Maker space, staff have discovered that pop-up Maker sessions held throughout the building appeal to a diverse range of users, from the very young to seniors.


The organic nature of the facility isn’t the only part of the old library that survived—the designers also repurposed original wood beams from the former library to create wood paneling for the program room. This room is adjacent to the main entrance and designed so that it can be used after the library closes, offering even more utility to its community as a public space to connect, grow, and enjoy.

The building is extremely site-­specific, responding to mature existing trees and an adjacent fire hall. However, the end result is inviting, dynamic, and open. By building a column-free roof, the LEED Silver–certified building takes advantage of a continuous raised floor. This eliminated the need for utilities, including ductwork and wiring, at the roof level and builds flexibility into the functionality of the space. The flooring also incorporates “back of house” functions and frees up more room for growth and evolving needs. There are a variety of seating options to encourage different types of use, from popular womb chairs in the children’s areas to built-in seating/bookcases that maximize usable space.

By maximizing daylight, the library also emphasizes its social nature. The south and west sides of the library are glass-walled, welcoming people inside. More than 75 percent of the occupied spaces receive natural daylight, and visitors are urged to take advantage of good weather on a second-level terrace that overlooks the trees preserved from the original site.—­Emily Puckett Rodgers

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. I would love to see the new central library in Halifax, Nova Scotia on this list some day soon.