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U of T: Robarts Library Renovations & Addition
St. George St. & Harbord St., Toronto
Developer: University of Toronto

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Thread: U of T: Robarts Common (5s, Diamond Schmitt)

  1. Default U of T: Robarts Common (5s, Diamond Schmitt)

    From the U of T Governing Council, Planning and Budget Committee:


    Bascially, a 5s addition facing Huron St. that sort of completes the triaxially symmetrical library plan. Mostly addition of study space and some reorganization of office functions. There will also be some sort of glazed entry at the existing podium level.


  2. #2


    Uh oh...

  3. Default

    From the PDF:
    "Finally, the Plan proposes changes to the Library’s exterior including the removal of precast concrete panels and replacement with glazed panels in the upper apex study rooms to capture more natural light at each level. Also proposed is the reconfiguration and addition of stairs and stepped seating connecting the ground level and the main podium (2nd) level of the library and leading to new glazed 2nd level entry pavilions of approximately of 470gsm, which will provide a minimum of 24 new casual study stations.
    These widened “amphitheatre” like staircases are expected to encourage social gathering and create casual outdoor seating along the lines of that found at Bryant Park in New York City."

  4. #4


    Erm...I think Toronto's brutalism preservationists are about to have their Boston City Hall moment.

  5. #5


    OMG... yeah this is crazy

  6. #6


    yet another new style is created PoMo-Brutalism...

    seriously though, I cant quite picture what this partial glazing is going to look like so I'll wait till we see renderings. The construction of the new addition looks promising and clearly needed and worthwhile. Pretty steep price tag though @ $75M !

  7. Default

    This is actually very surprising, and I hope that Jack Diamond won't be chosen for this one.

  8. Default

    The report suggests only a few concrete panels will be replaced with glass, so the effect could be very minor...it sounds like only a few metres of glass at the 9-13 floor apexes. The biggest change will be the layout of almost every floor.

    The entry pavillions and new staircases - and the "Morrison" addition, of course - could radically alter the appearance. I, for one, love its Mayan temple aesthetic.

    I hope they don't just add thousands of desks and call it a day...they need computers, not study space. Only a fraction of the current study space is actually used.

  9. #9


    While I'm on record as pro-Boston City Hall, I don't find what's planned for Robarts to be necessarily a negative; it seems from the sound of things that they're being as deferential as they can possibly be to the existing aesthetic, at least externally.

    It's a heritage building, after all.

  10. Default

    ...or, if not deferential, then respectful. I prefer the notion of respecting a heritage building over deferring to it, since "respect" gives contemporary architects the leeway to be bold.

    Adding something deferential onto a building as pugnatious as Robarts would surely yield a weak result. The addition can't be meek. It needs to be, in its own way, brutal.

  11. Default

    So the country's largest library is about to get even bigger - great news! I, too, share the concerns about continuity in design - hopefully the addition and alterations won't compromise and deviate from the original design too much.

  12. Default

    I think Patkau Architects would be perfect for the project.


  13. #13

    Default Monstrosity

    Assuming we can't just tear down the big ugly hulk....

    (sorry Concrete/Brutalist fans, but it was ugly then, and time has not been kind)

    We need to fix its biggest flaws.

    To me, from when I was there, study space was not such a big issue (that was just 9 years ago!)

    I think the biggest Robarts issues are the shortage of elevator capacity, which doesn't not seem to be proposed for a remedy in this plan (anyone remember the 10 minute waits for an elevator?)

    And the most important aesthetic flaw is its terrible relationship to St. George St.

    Its just cold, un-welcoming, it doesn't meet the street, it doesn't fit it in any way with its surrounding context.

    Don't ask me what the fix is for that.....since grafting on some pseudo-victorian front would look as stupid as what's there now....

    But that St. George entrance really needs to be re-concieved.

  14. #14


    Robarts might not just be the biggest library in Canada, but I'm sure it is in the top few on the whole continent, as is the UT library system as a whole...I know that the main library at Harvard is nowhere near as big as Fort Book, and Stirling, at Yale, is probably about the same.

    I have some very unhappy memories of working in Robarts...it felt like some sort of futuristic prison, as conceived by the 1970s, complete with seemingly random 8-or-so digit cell numbers on the carrels.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    Robarts might not just be the biggest library in Canada, but I'm sure it is in the top few on the whole continent, as is the UT library system as a whole...
    I'm not sure about the holdings of Robarts specifically but the UofT library system is ranked 3rd I believe in NA after Harvard and Yale.

    The building has an odd kind of symetry at the moment, it'll be interesting to see what the proposal looks like. I envision something akin to a sunroom being tacked onto an old stone house.

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