If you’ve never been to a library opening before you might be surprised to realize that they tend to attract crowds. At yesterday’s reopening of the Bloor/Gladstone branch, for instance, a throng of eager readers was waiting in the rain a half-hour before they were to be let inside, and once the doors did open it took twenty minutes for the line to clear. Kids ran downstairs to check out their colourful new play areas, longtime patrons set off to find the new locations of their old favourite sections, and the social butterflies settled into the sparkling computer lab for a status update or two. You could hardly blame them: they’d been without their library for nearly three years, and the enthusiasm with which the branch was welcomed back was delightful to behold.
The Bloor/Gladstone library, once called the Dovercourt branch, dates back to 1913 and got a new Heritage Toronto plaque yesterday to mark its history. This most recent redevelopment was a collaboration between RDH Architects Inc., Shoalts and Zaback Architects, and ERA Architects Inc., and it involved both a facelift and an expansion. The historical building has been carefully refurbished, retaining the original masonry and plasterwork, and a glass addition has increased floor space by more than nine thousand square feet.
The interior of the original building, done in Renaissance Revival style, consciously evokes an ancient temple with its formalism, high archways, and clean white walls. Though we find the effect perhaps a little austere, a wealth of windows softens the edges, and glass staircases and balconies provide lots of great interior sightlines. The newer side of the building fronts the street with a two-storey high wall of windows, a neat visual metaphor for how much a library is part of its surrounding community. (Thanks to a fantastic job with the soundproofing, Bloor Street traffic provides a visual but not audible backdrop.) It didn’t take more than a few minutes for the library to feel like home again, and by the time the ribbon was cut the politicians and library board members were, as felt only fitting, drowned out by the sounds of children excited at their latest literary discoveries.
All photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.