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2016 MCHAP

Halifax Central Library

Morten Schmidt

Halifax, Canada

December 2014


Morten Schmidt


George Cotaras (Fowler Bauld & Mitchell Ltd.)


Åsa Kachan (Chief Librarian & CEO Halifax Public Libraries)


Adam Mørk Gary Brinton Julian Parkinson


The new Halifax Central Library is the most significant public building built in Halifax in a generation, and will represent the diverse communities, talents, and creativity of the residents of Halifax throughout the municipality and present this to the world. This library serves its audience through its functionality and comfort of the interior environment – and it has an architectural identity of its own. It appears accessible, inclusive and open. Designing Halifax Central Library as a modern multifunctional building translates into the creation of a unique place with a strong identity and character, connected to the user’s defined and undefined needs, a place that fosters a sense of authentic attachment and belonging. The new library is a space for learning, sharing, and interacting, as well as a haven for immersion and inspiration. The library provides room for both formal and informal activities; on one hand, the specific physical environment attached to the library’s functions and services, and, on the other, space for relaxing and interacting. The user involvement in the design process stimulated and developed ownership and affiliation in the public at large, but it is also the library’s architecture that communicated recognisable values for the institution, the city and the surrounding community, and it still does to this present day.


The new Halifax Central Library sits on a prominent position in downtown Halifax. The site itself is bound by the heritage neighbourhood of Schmidtville, the historic Citadel Hill, Dalhousie University School of Architecture and the busiest shopping street east of Montreal, Spring Garden Road. Every stage of the architectural design process has been carried out through extensive monthly public consultations; and several workshops with various focus groups have been held. Live streaming on the library's website has ensured all future users of the library have had a substantial influence on the design process. The citizens of Halifax have welcomed this initiative by participating in these events and have provided important contributions, for instance the way green space is represented within the building and how light is brought into the building, the establishment of private spaces and also the priority of seating and work spaces. The façade of the building reflects the local history of the site which was once a central local 'garden' and significant green space within the heart of the city. An abstracted 'leaf' motif of varying densities creates a façade that appears more solid in some areas, yet fully open in others reflecting the strong seasonal nature of the much-loved trees that surround the site. The approach is to combine this local reference with that of a Scandinavian design signature and to create a modern hybrid library building that will stand out from other public buildings.


Halifax Central Library is a civic landmark sited in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the East Coast of Canada. The library is a multifunctional cultural hub with direct accessibility to the vibrant surrounding urban context of historic and new buildings. The library stands as a flagship for all 14-branch libraries servicing the municipality. The construction of the library is cubic in form with four significant 'volumes' vertically placed on top of one another with a horizontally twisted and shifted façade alignment. Distinctive cantilevers create a voluminous expression whereas the remaining façades align elegantly with the neighbouring façade of the classic architecture of Dalhousie University’s Architecture School. From the top of the building, there is access to a green roof terrace, which provides unique view towards Halifax Harbour and Citadel Hill. The patterned façade reflects the local history of the site, which was once a central 'garden' within the heart of the city. The project has achieved LEED Gold certification. The interior of the library reflects the diversity of the exterior with stairs and bridges in the atrium connecting the five storeys. The light-filled atrium gives an overview of the wide range of facilities the library offers: a 300-seat performance space, two cafés, gaming stations, music studios, dedicated space for literacy classes, a First Nation area, and boardrooms for local entrepreneurs.

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