Marianne Wilkinson, a former city councillor for Kanata, at one of the workshops for the new Ottawa Public Library at the Nepean Sportsplex Saturday March 2, 2019. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia
Ashley Fraser / Postmedia
The lead architect of Ottawa’s downtown superlibrary says he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to design a new landmark for the city on a site with such “extraordinary features.”“This is a great opportunity because it’s such an extraordinary site to really make a landmark,” architect Donald Schmitt said in an interview at the Nepean Sportsplex, where 200 members of the public gathered Saturday morning to debate design concepts for the new Albert Street facility.It was the first in a series of public consultation sessions on the $193-million project, which is expected to be completed by 2024.“The site has great visibility and it provides that opportunity for a landmark,” Schmitt said. “We see this site as really a privileged site: it’s expansive.”Schmitt asked participants to share their ideas about how to take advantage of the site’s best physical features, its scenic views and its proximity to the Ottawa River, the Parliamentary Precinct, the Fleet Street Pumphouse, the Canadian War Museum and LeBreton Flats.Tables of six to eight people gathered around models of downtown Ottawa and came up with ideas, which were written down and shared with Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects, the firm chosen to design the facility in partnership with Ottawa’s KWC Architects.
One of two design workshops for the new Ottawa Public Library took place at the Nepean Sportsplex Saturday March 2, 2019. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia
Ashley Fraser /
Retired Ottawa resident France Pilbrow said she wants to see the new library’s architecture reflect its setting near the Ottawa River.“I’d like to see a building that’s more flowing, not so sharp in its corners,” she said, “and that integrates with the environment.”Steve Burke, a 3D technology specialist, said he attended Saturday’s sold-out public consultation session because he wanted to be reassured the library wouldn’t be an eyesore.“I want it to stand out and yet blend in: I want it to take into account some of the other good architecture in this city and not just look like some concrete block,” he said.Marianne Wilkinson, a former city councillor and a longtime trustee on the Ottawa Public Library board, attended Saturday’s session because she believes decisions about the library are vital.“I want to see this through,” she said. “This is one that’s extremely important: It’s probably the only major city-wide facility that will be built for decades that’s not transportation.”Wilkinson said she would like to see the library be at least five-storeys in height so that some of the property could be reserved for outdoor activities. A taller building, she said, would also improve views of the nearby Ottawa River.“If they had a cafeteria on top that faced the river, it would be a beautiful vista,” she said.Schmitt said the building will have more than 200,000 square feet of floor space spread over three to five storeys.“What we’re very interested in are the community views of what constitutes a great library,” he said. “But also, what are the opportunities for taking the extraordinary opportunities of this site and turning them to our advantage?”
Schmitt is the team lead for the design of the facility that will play host to the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada.
Ashley Fraser /
Schmitt is the team lead for the design of the facility that will play host to the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada.A senior principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects, Schmitt has already left his stamp on Ottawa.He was a key member of the teams that renovated the National Arts Centre and the Government Conference Centre, which now houses the Senate. He has also had major roles in the design of the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre, the Sick Children’s Hospital Research Tower, Detroit’s Symphony Hall and the University of Toronto’s Bahen Centre for Information Technology. A graduate of U of T’s School of Architecture, Schmitt and his firm have won more than 300 design awards, including six Governor General’s Awards.The design of the building will be unveiled late this fall after three more rounds of public consultation. Among other things, participants will be asked how to make the building iconic, sustainable and a landmark destination.The new library is scheduled to open in five years at 555 Albert St., on the eastern edge of LeBreton Flats, where the soon-to-be-opened Confederation LRT Line will one day deliver visitors almost to the front door of the facility via Pimisi Station.Schmitt said the recent collapse of the LeBreton deal will not affect the library project since LeBreton will “inevitably develop” over time.Architects, he said, are still at the preliminary design phase and are trying to understand how to organize all of the program elements inside the building, including a 300-seat auditorium, exhibition spaces, book stacks, reading rooms, a children’s discovery centre, meeting places and a cafeteria.They’re also trying to decide how to marry the Ottawa Public Library with Library and Archives Canada inside the same building.The city will contribute $104.2 million towards the facility, along with $18.1 million for a 200-space parking garage.