Indigenous architect Alfred Waugh tapped to design new downtown Saskatoon library

Saskatoon Public Library CEO Carol Cooley said the new downtown library will embody local First Nation and Métis identities as the design team is announced. File / Global News

A team led by Indigenous architect Alfred Waugh has been awarded the contract to design a new Saskatoon downtown library.

Waugh said the facility will bridge the Indigenous world and western knowledge.

“The new library will play a critical role in addressing reconciliation by weaving Indigenous, Métis and Saskatoon’s rich culture into the design,” Waugh said in a statement Tuesday.

“This place will be inclusive and serve as a place of healing, providing a safe environment to come together to exchange knowledge and strengthen the community’s spirit. A place where oral tradition, storytelling, and the written word coexist.”

Read more: Saskatoon Public Library eliminates late fines

Waugh said his team has the talent and expertise to create a design unique to the city, a vision shared by Saskatoon Public Library CEO Carol Cooley.

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“We chose this team because of their expertise and their approach to delivering on the vision for the new central library to embody local First Nation and Metis identities and express the aspirations of the Saskatoon community,” Cooley said.

Waugh is the owner and founder of Formline Architecture, one of three firms heading up the team designing the building.

The other firms are Chevalier Morales Architectes and Architecture49.

“We are convinced that this new public building will be more than a library; it will create a sense of belonging where everyone and every community can relate,” said Stephan Chevalier from Chevalier Morales Architectes.

“We have designed many libraries, but this project goes beyond the library program; it carries a strong sense of purpose and meaning for the city, the province and the country.”

Read more: City council votes for new central library

SPL said it received 18 proposals for the design phase, which was short-listed to four teams.

“It’s a rare opportunity to work on a project with a vision that has the potential to transform its community,” said Victor Kolynchuk from Architecture49.

“We have a team that is aligned with and believes in the bold vision that has been charted for the new Saskatoon central library.

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SPL said the community will be involved in the design process, with consultations taking place in early 2021.

The announcement comes days after the city’s municipal election where the feasibility of a new library came under fire from some of the mayoral candidates.

Read more: Saskatoon mayoral candidates differ on viability of a new downtown central library

A borrowing request of $67.5 million for the project, nearly half of the inflation-adjusted total budget of $134 million (2026 dollars), was approved by city council in 2019.

That included Mayor Charlie Clark, who said any delay in the project would increase costs down the road.

Three mayoral candidates — Rob Norris, Cary Tarasoff and Zubair Sheikh — said the new central library should not go ahead at this time given the current tax burden on property owners and the impact of COVID-19 on the city’s budget.

Clark, along with nine of the 10 previous city councillors, was re-elected on Nov. 13.

SPL said a new central library is needed to meet the needs of a growing city and is a critical piece of its long-term growth plan.

Officials added the current Frances Morrison Central Library, built in 1966, is also non-compliant with many building codes, including fire, mechanical, electrical and accessibility, with some dating back 20 years.

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The city had purchased land on 2nd Avenue North for the proposed central library at a cost of $9 million.

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Saskatoon Public Library proposes new $154M downtown building – Sep 20, 2019

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