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Portico project wraps up revitalization of University of Toronto Robarts library

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by Daily Commercial News last update:Jul 8, 2011

The University of Toronto has completed a $13.8-million revitalization program at its Robarts Library by unveiling two new porticos, designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects.
University of Toronto Robarts library
University of Toronto Robarts library


staff writer


The University of Toronto last week celebrated completion of a $13.8-million, multi-year revitalization program at its flagship Robarts Library by unveiling two new porticos for student and public use.

The enclosed porticos on the second floor of the library on the downtown St. George campus transform what previously was little-used outdoor space into new arrival halls.

A new point of access to the 13-storey library has been added on the south side from Harbord Street with the addition of an outdoor staircase that leads to the south portico.

“A hallmark of our design brief was to create an architecture on both the exterior and interior that felt like it was always there and at same time to create a strong new identity and focus,” said Gary McCluskie, a principal with Diamond and Schmitt Architects, the project architects.

Design features include 14, three-metre-long cylindrical pendular light fixtures in each of the new porticos that serve as a beacon to the library, which opened in 1974 and is famous for its severe Brutalist form.

“Now there is a sense of occasion, of arrival, in the new Robarts Library,” McCluskie said.

Other amenities and services for the 18,000 daily visitors include improved way-finding and orientation in the triangular-shaped building that was notorious to navigate prior to renovations.

Touch-screen terminals in the porticos now identify where study space is available throughout the building. More natural light, terrazzo flooring, display cases and additional study space round out the experience of this phase of renewal.

Previously renovated were the fifth floor map & data library in 2009, all study areas on floors 9-12 from 2008-2010 and the third floor media commons in 2010.

Construction manager was Govan Brown.

The next phase of the renewal, also designed by Diamond and Schmitt, will be the addition of a five-storey pavilion that will add a

new face for Robarts, opening up the west side of the building to the street, bringing a flood of natural light to the lower floors and making the overall environment “more inviting, accessible and productive” for students.

Estimated construction cost is $27 million. A date has not been set for groundbreaking. Nor has a decision been made on whether a general contractor or construction manager will be retained, McCluskie said in an interview.

last update:Jul 8, 2011

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