After 20 years, the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch at 350 West Georgia Street is realizing its dream: to have a public rooftop garden and cafe.
As you probably know, the Colosseum-esque VPL already has a pretty cool, green rooftop covered with indigenous fescue and kinnickinnick grasses that are arranged to resemble the Fraser River. But most visitors have never gotten the chance to see the roof since the library was built in 1995. If you want to see it, you have to go to a neighbouring building for a peek. There are no safety barricades surrounding the perimeter of the 28,000 sq. ft roof and it’s a 30 metre drop to the ground.
The city has given VPL the green light for planning the massive “garden in the sky,” according to coverage in the Vancouver Sun. As for the timeline, in 2015 the library will reclaim the eighth and ninth floors from the provincial government and redo the whole shebang, adding more reading rooms and two outdoor terraces in a multi-level outdoor area, including an 8,000 sq. ft. public garden. There’s also been mention of a 3,000 sq. ft. “inspiration lab” with a a digital recording studio, music lab and video editing area.
The same architect (Moshe Safdie) and landscape architect (Vancouverite Cornelia Oberlander) are on board for the new project. Safdie (along with Richard Archambault and Barry Downs) won the competition for the project during the planning phase in the early 1990s by putting forward the most radical/original design for Vancouver Library Square, complete with free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded walls, a striking glass-roofed concourse, and floor-to-ceiling windows offering a stunning view of downtown Vancouver. The original goal of Vancouver Library Square was to expand to Vancouver’s downtown core eastward, creating a public space with a strong civic identity. Read more about the building design here.
VPL Central Branch already ranks high up on lists such as “The 25 Most Beautiful Public Libraries in the World.” But the additions are welcome; if you’ve recently tried to work or read in the current library design, you know competition for real estate, let alone quiet real estate, is fierce. Plus, in the 21st century, it’s likely that the world’s greenest city needs a sky garden.
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