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Waterdown Public Library

09 Dec 2019
Image Credit: Photographs by Tom Arban, courtesy of Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley Architects Inc.
Architectural Credit: Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley Architects Inc
Location: Hamilton
Date of Completion: 2015
Architect: Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley Architects Inc
Nominated by: Donna Skelly, MPP (Flamborough—Glanbrook)

Sitting atop the iconic Niagara Escarpment, the Waterdown Public Library takes a challenging site condition and transforms it into an opportunity for innovation and accessibility that takes its cue from its unique natural context.

Site Specific

Located on the Niagara Escarpment, a rocky ridge overlooking Lake Ontario and one of the province’s most distinctive geological features, the building’s design is highly responsive to its unique context—using the escarpment as a starting point and inspiration for the building’s design.

Low and grounded, the building feels part of the landscape. Referencing the rocky cliff below, its exterior features stone slab fins and panels that create a bold, near-monolithic appearance. At the low point, the library cantilevers out from the slope much like a hovering block of dolomitic limestone of the escarpment. An outdoor reading terrace and a sloping green roof with flowers and sedums reinforces the connection to the site.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley Architects Inc.

In the interior, the building has been conceived to take full advantage of what would typically be seen as a challenging condition—a three-metre change in elevation from the highest point on the site down to the street. Instead of relying on a multistorey design to deal with this change, the building is organized as a one-storey, split-level interior with a series of six interior terraces connected to each other by barrier-free 1:20 sloping walkways. The interior reaches its peak at the library, where an open plan and generous glazing provides striking views of the escarpment and beyond.

Image Credit: Photograph by Tom Arban

Throughout the building and landscape, sustainability features are carefully integrated to reduce the building’s environmental impact. The building has a flowering orchard to shade the parking areas and bio-swales in the parking lots and green spaces, along with underground collection system for rainwater management. Low-VOC, recycled and local materials are integrated throughout the design. Generous clerestory windows and glazing provide plentiful daylight, while vertical limestone louvres, Douglas fir wood fins and shutters and repeating ceramic frit pattern on the glazing help reduce unwanted heat gain.

Image Credit: Photograph by Tom Arban

Community Hub
More than just a library, the Waterdown Public Library is a community hub bringing together a wide variety of public services under one roof making it easier for local residents to access social, cultural, recreational and municipal services. It also provides a unique opportunity to offer services in collaboration with different agencies and reduces administrative duplication.

In addition to the public library, the building also houses the Flamborough Archives run by the Flamborough Heritage Society, a new Flamborough Seniors’ Recreation Centre, the Flamborough Information and Community Service and the Flamborough Municipal Service Centre. 

This post forms part of our World Architecture Day Queen’s Park Picks 2019 series in which we asked Ontario’s Members of Provincial Parliament to nominate a prominent building, past or present, in their riding for a chance to learn more about it. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about great buildings across the province!


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