The Idea Exchange Old Post Office

Location: Cambridge, Ont.
Architect: Rounthwaite, Dick and Hadley Architects Inc.

OAA Design Excellence Awards Finalist

The Idea Exchange Old Post Office is a major renovation, restoration, and addition of a listed heritage structure located in downtown Galt, within the municipality of Cambridge. This project adapts an existing building to accommodate the Idea Exchange—a progressive bookless library program comprising almost exclusively studio spaces for public creation for all age groups. This project represents a new library typology, housed within a remarkable historic structure that has engaged in constant dialogue with its transparent, contemporary addition, projecting the life and vitality of a progressive library program to the street, the river, and the city beyond.

The design scheme renovates and restores an existing 9000-sf building and adds 9000 sf of additional program space located to the south and west of the existing historic property. The new addition is conceived as a transparent, glowing, contemporary pavilion floating atop the Grand River. The design scheme utilizes site lines and material transparency in an attempt to promote views of the historic structure, and bring light into the various levels of studio space.

The Idea Exchange is a highly sustainable building, designed for LEED Gold certification. The building employs many sustainable initiatives, including the adaptive reuse of an existing building, a restoration that added significant insulation and waterproofing to the existing building, extensive green roofs, reflective white TPO membranes to reduce the urban heat island effect, maximized daylighting, sensors for daylight harvesting, increased durability through significant floodproofing measures, custom ceramic frit patterns to reduce solar heat gain, use of energy-efficient variable refrigerant volume heating and cooling systems, and a rainwater collection system that uses greywater in plumbing fixtures.

The Old Post Office adaptively reuses a significant historic property by delicately inserting a highly innovative public program—the first of its kind in Canada, and possibly the world. The notion of empowering the individual to learn and engage in almost any creative pursuit that he or she might have an interest in, free of charge, is a very powerful and principled concept, and one perfectly aligned with the continued pursuit of delivering access to information and self betterment for which the public library has been known since its conception.

Image Credit: Tom Arban & RDHA

Image Credit: Tom Arban & RDHAImage Credit: Tom Arban & RDHA
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