Up until recently, the top two floors of the Vancouver Public Library’s (VPL) Central Library branch at Library Square were used as offices for the provincial government, but that is about to change.
Next week, construction will commence to convert the now-vacated office spaces into 40,000 square feet of additional publicly accessible library and community spaces, including a public rooftop garden.
There will be two large outdoor terraces on the north and south sides where people can eat their lunch. Some food vending services will also be available, but it will be short of becoming a complete cafe service.
An 8,000-square-foot public garden on the rooftop will become a place where people can read a book, do work, or find a quiet retreat from the busy city below. Programmed events on the rooftop, such as lectures, workshops, learning events, and community meetings, are also planned.
Additionally, a large quiet reading room, art and cultural exhibition spaces, and an 80-seat fixed-seat auditorium will be incorporated into the eighth floor’s new usage.
Sandra Singh, the Chief Librarian of VPL, told Daily Hive the auditorium fills a certain gap in the type of meeting space the community is in need of.
“If you’re a writer or an artist or a filmmaker who has created something amazing and wants to show to the community, and you want to launch it in a space that is beautiful and inspiring and worthy of all your work and talents and efforts, there really aren’t spaces of modest size that are affordable or even in some cases free to use for the community,” she said.
Altogether, these plans complete the original vision of Library Square when it was designed and built over 20 years ago. World-renowned Safdie Architects, the building’s original designers, returned to the project to design the new spaces, and for the rooftop garden’s landscaping the library has contracted landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander, the original designer of the building’s green roof.
“People are very excited about the garden,” continued Singh. “We knew that would be the case just because over the last 20 years we’ve been dealing with requests for access to the green space on the top floor. There’s also a lot of enthusiasm about the various community meeting rooms, so people are just really excited to see the expansion of the library.”
The retrofits to the top two floors will cost $15.5 million, funded by a $9-million contribution from the City of Vancouver and the remainder from the Vancouver Public Library Foundation.
Construction is scheduled for a March 2018 completion for a mid-spring opening next year.