Stanley A. Milner Library Feasibility Study

City of Edmonton, Edmonton, Alberta

While with Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning
Role: Principal-in-Charge, Design Team Lead

Public institutions look different today than they did 20 years ago. Technological changes, economic changes and the significant increase of multiculturalism have all been new forces propelling new paradigms causing change and reshaping and redefining our notions of civic buildings and their programs. Since the 1980s libraries have changed radically from central catalog facilities where public was forced to travel to a central location to access library holdings, to accessibility from multiple locations significantly changing public user engagement and public expectations on services.

These evolving and dynamic cultural forces change our whole social landscape particularly around public buildings.  This study focused on concepts for enhancing the North Façade of the Stanley A. Milner Library; that is the 1998 ground floor addition, and the existing 1965 second floor and tower block. The ambition of this exercise was to generate a number of impactful and meaningful concepts through a visioning process that lead to contemporary options for reinvigorating the library’s outward appearance, and restate the library’s presence as a significant public edifice in the downtown cultural core.

The concepts in this study all focused on innovative potential that supported preserving the building’s existing valuable infrastructure; while at the same time creating a new façade that engages 21st century notions of the library and it’s place in civic culture; as a learning laboratory, a community activator and information centre, a formal education support centre for ‘life long learning’, a place to serve the underserved, a guarantor of public access to information, a gathering place, and a cultural catalyst for inquiry and change.  

Four (4) main scenarios explored the range from permanent new solutions to replace or partially modify the existing north façade envelope to temporary ‘installation’ solutions that have a short life-cycle of five to seven years. All four scenarios recognize the ‘right to light’ and either maintain existing window views and natural daylight or substantially increase views and access to daylight. Options that were envisaged as permanent were developed to permit incremental growth around the entire building as budget permitted, creating a complete, integrated new high performance building envelope.  The four (4) scenarios in order of examination are as follows:

Scenario 1:  New energy efficient building envelope / skin replacing the existing brick and precast panels. Scenario 2: Modified existing brick and precast panels changing the architectural appearance.
Scenario 3: Re-cladding with a new spandrel panel system outboard and over the existing envelope.
Scenario 4: Temporary architectural drape.

These scenarios were reviewed by the team for:

  • Contextual fit and cultural meaning / integration with the Civic Precinct Masterplan overall

  • Fit and Relationship to Sir Winston Churchill Square & City Hall

  • Appropriateness of scale and proportion to existing building

  • Response to the Values, Mission and Vision of the Edmonton Public Library as described in new award-winning branding

  • Contribution to the Urban Realm, Civic Core, and Streetscape

  • Innovation, dynamic, and creative design response

  • Clear distinction between interventions that are temporary or permanent

  • Life cycle effectiveness

  • Structural impacts and constructability

  • Envelope impacts and constructability

  • Order of magnitude costs

Assembling an award winning consultant team composed of Kasian as prime consultant and design lead, Bruce Mau Design in Toronto, Fast + Epp Structural Engineering, Williams Engineering and BTY Group, concepts were developed through a rigorous research and development phase, tested technically and economically for viability, and ranked as preferred concept options for further development.

CivicVaughan Hoy