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To give the library the presence necessary to allow it to compete on a typical North American “commercial strip”, the height of the single-story perimeter walls to the north and south are exaggerated. Not only does this give the building greater presence on the street, but it also allows large amounts of natural light to enter the building: on the south side through carefully controlled openings, and on the north through a glass curtain wall that allows a soft ambient light to fill the interior.

1994 – Governor General’s Medal
1994 – Canadian Wood Council Merit

While the walls to the north and south are exaggerated, the entrance to the west is compressed to a human scale. This compression runs the entire length of the building, creating a valley in the roof that helps to reflect natural light deep into the interior. This valley also works in conjunction with an attic space to provide a plenum which houses the air distribution ducts leading from a mechanical penthouse. The cross section of this attic space diminishes as it moves away from the penthouse, resulting in a cross slope which drains the entire roof to each end of the building, where rainwater is collected in rock cisterns and allowed to percolate into the water table.

The construction of the building begins with a laminated timber frame on a concrete base. The tectonic qualities of this construction establish the primary character of the building shell. To reflect natural light deep into the interior of the library, a complementary clad construction of white painted gypsum board on the interior, and stucco on the exterior, is overlaid on portions of the building. In this way a dialectic of construction types energizes the architectural expression of the building.

Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Dates: 1990-1992
Client: Corporation of the District of Surrey

Architect: Patkau Architects Inc.

Project Team: Michael Cunningham, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, David Shone, Peter Suter, Peter Wood

Structural: C. Y. Loh Associates Ltd.
Mechanical: D. W. Thomson Consultants Ltd.
Electrical: R. A. Duff & Associates Inc.
Costing: BTY Group
Acoustics: Brown Strachan Associates

Contractor: Farmer Construction Ltd.