Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

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Buildings

Windsor Park Library

Address:1195 Archibald Street
Architects:David Penner Architect,Helio Rodrigues, h5 Architecture

More Information

Development of the new Windsor Park Library began in 2012 when Winnipeg City Council approved the Winnipeg Public Library’s redevelopment strategy. Construction began in 2017 and was completed in 2018.

In the February 2020 Canadian Architect magazine, Winnipeg architect Lawrence Bird writes

“The simple yet unusual form stands out as a landmark in the community. Its acute angle is striking to any passerby—pedestrian, bicyclist, driver. Set back and sunk slightly below road level, the building is buffered from the adjacent traffic arterial by stands of prairie tall grass. Access is via a looping roadway designed, like a street, with parking on either side, avoiding the typical suburban-style parking lot. An arcade of asymmetrical, inventively detailed W-sections supports a corrugated steel roof, all powder-coated white; behind this rises the library’s east façade. The sleek profile of the library cuts into one’s line of sight, an effect even more powerful at night, when interior lighting makes the building glow. It slices toward the adjacent ravine, where a wooden bridge leads to the public pool, offering other community activities as well as overflow parking.

While most of the façade is full-height glass, as one moves from the south tip of the building to the entrance, the glazing is modulated by perforated Corten cladding, screening some windows while revealing others. Wise budgeting is always appreciated in this city, and the architects emphasize that this cladding was off-the-shelf, with standard sections used to minimize waste and expense. As one moves further north, the façade becomes progressively more opaque; as it wraps around the corner, the perforated steel is replaced by solid Corten. With good reason: the north elevation faces the tee of the 16th hole, so the wall of weathered steel defends against errant golf balls.

As one enters the building, a clear division into public and service space unfolds, a natural result of bisecting the triangle. To the left lies the public area, the “skinny” portion of the triangle. Here, the reading room and stacks are bounded by two long glazed walls converging at the southern tip of the building. The acute angle creates a striking interior spatial experience, accentuated by views to either side. Through the east wall, traffic zooms by silently on roadway; to the west is the library’s grassy patio set against the foliage of the public golf course. Computer workstations are arrayed here, so this leafy view is seen by users glancing up from their screens. This is a relief for the eyes, and an astute integration of the landscape into the design of the building.

The “fat” northern section of the triangle, pushed up against the 60-degree angle, is given over to administrative functions. Rather than using a connecting corridor, the architects have stacked most elements Tetris-style. For some, the resulting spaces may seem crowded; others will read the planning as minimalist and clever, reducing circulation space to almost zero. To this end, mechanical systems are only accessed from the exterior, through the solid Corten north wall. As with many good buildings throughout history, imperfections in the geometry are accommodated in the invisible part of the structure. Access to the mechanical room is articulated as a notch in the plan—the only departure from the purity of the triangle.

Structural systems are similarly divided between the two parts of the triangle. In the administrative space, cement blocks support a poured-in-place concrete structure overhead, whose occasional imperfections add character. In contrast, a space frame spans the acutely angled, public, portion of the triangle. The architects chose the system for its triangulated geometry and its resonance with the notion of “network.” Like today’s library programs, a space frame is centreless, distributed, multidirectional, and can serve as an “umbrella” for fluctuating conditions.”

Design Characteristics

Suburb:Windsor Park
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