Reading between the lines

05 Jul 2012

Canada Water Library exemplifies the importance of education and community

Canada Water ‘Super' Library is the civic centrepiece for the regeneration of the area around Canada Water and a focus for the community.  Its inverted pyramid form is an innovative response to providing an efficient single large library floor on a smaller footprint site.

It has been dubbed ‘super' by Southwark Council as it incorporates a multi-purpose community and performance space; education and meeting roomsand a café.  It also subsumes an entrance to the adjacent tube and bus station and provides real time train times in the main entrance area.

The perforated bronzed anodised aluminium cladding 'shimmers' in the sunlight and mimics the ripples of the basin it sits next to. The bronze colour isreflective of the notion of a civic building's grandeur and long-lasting place within a community whilst the perforated aluminium,(ripple effect) gives it a playful feel. 

The community have been strongly involved since 2005 when Southwark Council wrote the brief for the master-plan competition. Community representatives helped choose the winning scheme, and were also involved in developing the library brief. In April 2006, Southwark wrote that there was an opportunity to design ‘a free-standing iconic civic building which exemplifies the importance of library, education and community facilities to the people of the borough.' Scrutinized at public exhibitions and talks throughout the process, the resulting building is a testimony to Southwark Council and its inclusive approach, working with and energising the existing communities of the area.

The building is a strong civic gesture in an area of mixed building, including considerably higher blocks of flats. The sloping form invites people under its wings. The more vertical walls to north and west elegantly enclose the plaza and street respectively. The more angled walls engage the scale of Canada Water basin to the south.

Barry Duckett, chair of the Rotherhithe Area Housing Forum and the Canada Estate Tenants and Residents Association, said: "The area desperately needed a library that was more than just a library - it needed a hub for the community where young people can study and access computers, it needed a community space for meetings, and it needed an outlet for the arts. This library has got all of those and it far exceeded my expectations - I'm delighted by it."

Key Facts

Civic Buildings
United Kingdom

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