Toronto Public Library - Albert Campbell Branch

Scarborough, Ontario

Albert Campbell Library demonstrates how heritage buildings need not be replaced nor replicated to resonate with today’s users.

 

Toronto Public Library believed that the Fairfield and DuBois’ 1971 library building needed an addition or replacement to meet its current programming needs. However, our analysis revealed that 25% of the back-of-house could be repurposed for public use – saving the building from demolition.

Excavating the site, we relocated the main entrance sequence from an upward ramp to what was previously an underutilized lower level. Visitors now enter through an Indigenous garden featuring native species, a medicine wheel, and an eye-catching mural by Red Urban Nation Artist Collective.

Inside, a new staircase opens connections through the entire structure – one of many improvements to visibility, navigation, and safety. A new elevator core also renders the entire building accessible, including the rooftop – now planted with sedums.

Perhaps the most dramatic change: we reclad the library’s undulating red metal ceilings with Douglas Fir, lowering the building’s embodied carbon material, enhancing acoustics, and softening the environment for library users.

Responding to public feedback, the library layout now includes distinct zones for different ages, as well as an Innovation Hub, recording studio, and a smudging room. These spaces are loose enough to invite both staff and the community to make the library their own.

In the spirit of reconciliation and to make the library culturally safe and relevant for Toronto’s First Nations community members, a ceremony was held to honour the five Grandfather trees that had to be removed from the site. Salvaged wood from the trees was later used in the smudging room fit-out.

 

“From the front door to the back corners, this branch embodies how far libraries have come from being repositories for books. The flexibility and elegance of the design also shows how much is possible when library staff, neighbours of all ages and architects collaborate to renew a neighbourhood institution.”

 

– Emily Macrae, Canadian Architect

“Sometimes architecture can work magic. The Albert Campbell Library in Toronto is proof. The building recently got a remake by LGA Architectural Partners that retains some of its old labyrinthine complexity while adopting a new language of lightness, wood and transparency. The project has two clear lessons for governments everywhere: Renovation can be a powerful strategy, and hiring the right designers is crucial.”

 

– Alex Bozikovic, Globe and Mail

Awards

2023 Heritage Toronto Award, Finalist
2022 Architectural Woodwork Manufacturer Association of Canada, Ontario Award
2024 – OAA Design Excellence, Shortlisted

Media

Canadian Architect –  (June 2023) A New Chapter: Toronto Public Library Albert Campbell Branch, Scarborough, Ontario
Toronto.com – (August 2022) ‘More inviting and warm and welcome’: Scarborough’s Albert Campbell library reopens with Indigenous features
Urbantoronto – (October 2023) Heritage Toronto Honours Architectural Excellence at 48th Annual Awards