One of the better aspects of Vancouver is its public library system, which is best defined by the Central Branch at Library Square in downtown Vancouver.
Yet this was not always the case; it wasn’t until May 26, 1995, that Library Square was completed, providing Vancouver Public Library (VPL) with a world-class main library and civic public space.
Twenty-three years later, Library Square continues to be one of Vancouver’s most celebrated public spaces.
Ahead of this weekend’s opening of the new two-level library expansion and public rooftop garden, here is a look at how Library Square came to be.
During Gordon Campbell’s mayoral tenure in 1990, the City of Vancouver staged a referendum asking residents whether they wanted to replace the existing over-capacity main library at 750 Burrard Street – where Victoria’s Secret is currently located – with a significantly larger, iconic building a few blocks down on Robson Street.
Residents ultimately approved the project, and an international design competition was launched. Canadian-based architect Moshe Safdie won with his daring design inspired by the ancient Coliseum in Rome.
Construction began in 1993, and it cost $107 million to build, making it the largest capital project undertaken by the City of Vancouver at the time.
Not including the 21-storey office tower leased by the federal government, the Central Branch has over 370,000-sq-ft of floor area, including its upper two floors. The latest library space expansion was made possible in 2015 when the provincial government vacated the upper two floors it had been renting for the past 20 years as part of the original arrangement to help fund the construction of Library Square.
The colour of the complex comes from granite quarried in the BC interior at Horsefly, near Williams Lake.
Both Safdie and the library’s original green roof designer, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, returned to the project over the last few years to help design the expansion, fulfilling their original vision of the Central Branch.
Here is a collection of photos provided by VPL that shows the construction of the Central Branch: