Since opening over 40 years ago, The University of Toronto’s John P. Robarts Research Library, more commonly known simply as 'Robarts', is among the university’s most striking modern structures, a Brutalist design by architects Mathers and Haldenby in partnership with Warner, Burns, Toame and Lunde. Though the 2005 addition of sakura—cherry trees—has added a welcoming shot of spring colour to the library's grounds, the landmark’s imposing form has been compared to that of a fortress, earning the building the nickname 'Fort Book' over the years.

At the same time as the building is aging, the student population of U of T continues to rise. With the library’s patronage doubling over the past 35 years, Robarts now hosts an average 18,000 visitors per day, far beyond the capacity the building was originally designed for.

Rendering of Robarts Library and Robarts Common, image by DSAI, courtesy of U of T

A recent modernization of the library including a reworking of the entry areas has greatly enhanced the existing facility, but to completely bring Robarts up to speed for the 21st century, plans are in the works for a large expansion designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects that will add 4,300 square metres of usable space, including 1,222 new work and study spaces, in a new wing to be built on the west side of the library. Renderings of the addition, which is being called 'Robarts Common', depict a chamfered, fritted glass five-storey wing with prominent wood accents that will bring an airier and warmer look to the Huron Street side of the building.

Rendering of Robarts Library and Robarts Common, image by DSAI, courtesy of U of T

Robarts Common will feature study areas designed to accommodate large social groups, unlike the smaller, more intimate study spaces in the existing structure. The addition will boast ample natural light, comfortable seating, and other touches meant to improve and expand the functionality of the study spaces. Where the new wing connects to the original structure, the glazed jewel-box design will highlight the original concrete structural elements, providing a contextual crossover between the new and old.

Rendering of Robarts Library and Robarts Common, image by DSAI, courtesy of U of T

The addition's southern entrance will be the site of a spacious atrium featuring a café, modular seating and information terminals, all opening up to a new outdoor plaza and park. 

Aiming for LEED Silver designation, the addition will utilize sustainability features such as a green roof, LED lighting, fritted glass to lower heat gain, reductions in water use, and efficient landscaping. The project will also make use of regionally sourced or recycled materials and certified sustainable wood products.

Close-up on the fritted glass of the Robarts Common expansion, image by DSAI, courtesy of U of T

If approved as planned, construction of the new addition is expected to commence next year.

In the meantime, additional information and renderings, including those depicting an earlier design for the addition, can be found in our dataBase file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or leave a comment using the field provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  Blackwell, Diamond Schmitt Architects, Mathers and Haldenby, University of Toronto