November 5, 2015 6:10 am

Halifax library hopes for architecture prize

The library cost $57.6 million to build and had support from all three levels of government.

Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – Halifax’s new library is up for an international architecture award this week and its chief executive hopes its chances of winning will be boosted by how the building has helped residents connect with one another.

Asa Kachan says the building has attracted an average of 6,000 people a day since it opened last December, roughly double the number originally projected.

Halifax’s much-anticipated new library on Spring Garden Road officially opened to the public on Saturday, and hundreds showed up to take a look. Julia Wong reports.

The 11,000-square-metre building consisting of stacked rectangular blocks in the city’s downtown is one of 13 finalists in the category of completed civic and community buildings in the World Architectural Festival. The winner of the prestigious award is to be announced on Friday.

Kachan credits the building’s layout for becoming a cultural hub where visitors can find quiet spaces but also can see one another across staircases and balconies that criss-cross its large atrium.

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It’s been more than three months since the new Central Library opened in Halifax, and it’s already on track to outstrip the predictions for how many visitors it could see this year. Marieke Walsh reports.

“The building is designed in such a way that when people look around themselves they may actually lock eyes with people who may be quite a distance from them,” she said in an interview.

“I see these wonderful, serendipitous connections happening every day in that building.”

The building’s location in the heart of the city and its sweeping views of the harbour and the historic fort on Citadel Hill make the library a breathtaking space for visitors and people walking by, Kachan said.

Members of the design team from the Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, who worked with local firm Fowler Bauld and Mitchell, are in Singapore to make a presentation about their design.

Principal architect George Cotaras said much of the building’s success stems from an extensive community consultation.

“They (jurors) should have an understanding that it is a community gathering place and a community hub, and it’s working that way and the architecture has facilitated that,” he said.

He said the jurors also might examine other factors, such as the building’s architectural composition, environmental sustainability and the materials used.

He described the building as modernist, adding that Scandinavian design influenced its bright colours and use of sunlight.

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