Have A Look At Your New Library

Got a tip this morning (thanks Chris) that Milkovitch Architects have posted about their plans for our new downtown branch of the library. Here are some pics that have gone up over on the skyscraperpage forum.

According to the write up, the new Central Branch is supposed to be a “porch to the park” — Victoria Park, that is. It will include, in addition to the library, a theatre, art gallery, hotel and commercial space.

You’ll note that the Masonic Temple seems to be missing in these pics. Scuttlebutt on skyscraperpage (from a poster who’s supposed to be “in the know”) is that the building will be moved. Where to? No idea.

So what does everybody think? Best thing ever or not?

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

57 thoughts on “Have A Look At Your New Library”

  1. My father and uncle were very active in the provincial Masonic movement. They tell me Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan could never afford to keep the Masonic Temple going without the revenue from the adjoining parking spaces. So barring a land swap provided by the City, I don’t see the Masons going anywhere.

  2. Nice to see something finally be released – it’s been quite awhile since anything has been announced about this project. I too am interested in the situation with the Masonic temple.

    I’m also not too sure what I think about the hotel aspect of this – is Regina really hard-up for more hotel space? I wonder if U of R Grad housing would be a better linkage to make, or office space for cultural entities (Sask Culture, CARFAC, Arts Board – I know they just got into a new space… but, while we’re dreaming).

    The design seems nice with the nice transparency to the library… can’t tell if I like the associated tower or not though.

  3. Maybe they could move the Mason’s to the lovely parking lot on Victoria between First Baptist and the Sports Hall of Fame. It would fill in that ugly lot just nicely, but parallel parking that building there might be a bit of a bitch. My guess is that part of the reason that the project has been slow in moving forward has been the issue of the Masons. That and oh, the economic collapse, the library’s inability to maintain its existing facilities, and a federal government that will likely have as much regard for a project that would lead to an educated and cultured populous as a domed stadium.

  4. I’m a mason.. essentially the city pitched us a few ideas and nobody is too fired up about them. As far as I know (I don’t attend meetings much) nothing has been decided.

    One of the things on the table was the city providing us meeting space in the new library… but our meetings require a facility that can accomodate more than a meeting space (ie: we hold a lot of social events so cooking, drinking are part of it)

    And yes, most of the money to keep the temple (which is distinct term from a lodge) running comes from parking spaces.

  5. Mark – I too would like to see a few more options that incorporate the existing structure and are sensitive to the Masonic temple. At the visioning session I went to back in 2009 those were up on the table and folks seemed interested in what was possible (an addition that fit over the current building and/or wrapped around the Masonic temple. There were also people (some from the project team, some not) who were pushing pretty hard for this to be a tower based building with some combo of public-private services.

    I think both examples you gave are fantastic examples of mixing building ages and styles. Retaining built heritage while still innovating.

    Some of the visioning that DIALOG did for the College Street U of R campus showed some options for working with older structures as well (see the end of the presentation): http://www.uregina.ca/physplnt/masterplan/docs/Oct_7_Open_House_Presentation.pdf

  6. I hate it, a lot. Echoing Mark’s comments, why doesn’t this city have any respect for its history, particularly its modernist heritage? Why do we have to tear down all of our old buildings? Midcentury architecture really suits the prairies – all of those clean lines and flat horizons. I think that the Central Library is a lovely building that looks like it belongs in its environment. It responds to its space.

    I’m a little put off by the jaunty angles in the new design. And it looks a little dated – like international postmodern architecture circa 2002. Quite frankly, I think it’s ugly and I wish that the firm would have found a way to incorporate the current building’s design into an era and style-sensitive renovation/upgrade.

  7. Regardless of what you think about modern architecture, the library needs an update. And if you’re so stuck on respecting architecture, maybe we should’ve stopped before we started doing 1970s modern architecture and just kept all the early 20th century brick ones? You can’t pick and choose when it comes to “respecting architecture.”

    I think any development downtown is inherently a GOOD thing– we can quibble about the details later: at least it isn’t more fucking sprawl.

  8. I love the new design idea, but why does getting a new library mean destroying the current library building and Masonic building? Let’s leave those as is, and build the new library elsewhere.

    (I heard a rumour there’s a big chunk of land in the centre of our city about to become available …)

  9. I agree Moon Daddy. I don’t get all the love for building around the current library. I think it is horrible looking. I am all for incorporating the old into the new, but not just to say we did it.

  10. Blair: On the architectural significance of the current RPL main office, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I never understood why people thought it was so interesting … to me it was just a grey-slabbed building the same color as the snow got after about three weeks’ pollution.

    As well, it hasn’t been renovated at all since it opened in 1962. Like Taylor Field, it’s probably too far gone to be worth renovating.

  11. At the risk of incurring more wrath from Greg Beatty and the “arts community”: the current Central Library is not only ugly, but it also wastes space and is an energy pig (how much money is spent to heat/air condition the 2-storey glass foyer?). That said, I’m not wild about the design as posted above. It looks like a cross-section of the Titanic, complete with funnel. Also, when I attended the info sessions and viewed the conceptions, the Masonic Temple was left in situ.

  12. I have to say I am really surprised that someone is referencing Winnipeg’s Millennium Library. Coming from Winnipeg, I can tell you that while the building is pretty killer, no one goes there because it is impossible – and I mean IMPOSSIBLE to park anywhere close to it. I’m not even going to go in to the level of perverse harassment from the creepy clientele that does make their day time home there…
    It’s nice to see that Regina is doing something to change the face of downtown, but get ready for this project to take 10 – 15 years judging from the timeline of all other construction projects that have been going on. Better build in some extra time for “rain” problems.

  13. Well I feel weak in the knees looking at this and not out of love. Obviously a lot of deal making has been going on behind the scenes. Apart from the FlashGordonesque look – this building will help to put an end to any concept of respecting Regina’s historic core and the municipal Heritage district that was supposed to exist for the area surrounding Victoria Park.

  14. That’s odd. I was in Winnipeg a couple weeks ago and the Millennium Library was packed on a Saturday afternoon; it’s the busiest library I’ve ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot of libraries).

    Some people may feel the current Central is ugly. I disagree. The building is in need of renovation and expansion though.

    For another example of some visionary architecture that maintains the existing structure:

    http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/sharpcentre/index.htm

  15. And one last example of an inspiring library:

    http://www.canadianarchitect.com/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000371253

    It has a five story atrium. An energy pig? I doubt it. Like most cities, Regina used to think public buildings should be inspiring: the Legislature, the SaskPower building, the original U of R campus buildings.

    What happened to this city? From the early 1970 onwards, Regina has done just about everything a city can do to damage itself – it should offer itself up as a case study of the consequences of terrible urban planning.

    And don’t get me started on the hideous, thing that they’re going to replace Scott Collegiate with. Any city with vision and a sense of environmental responsibility would incorporate a rejuvenated Scott into the integrated facility.

  16. Awesome design-but I really hope they are going to add a parkade or something, cuz parking currently at the central library sucks!!

  17. The hotel part looks out of place, like an erection on the porch. Does it look like the Tommy Douglas building in Wascana Park to anyone else?

  18. I like the entrance and north side of the existing central library and would love it if that could be incorporated into the new design. Seems like much of the inside is inefficiently laid out like Barb says, though I like the big central foyer well enough. Would need to see more images of this proposal and/or plan to form a fiery opinion one way or the other.

    I will go berserk if the film theatre or art gallery is excluded. If they do a good job on those–and, of course, keep the rest of the library functional and attractive–I probably won’t whine too much.

  19. Though I’m in favour of the design for the new library, it’s the location I’m having trouble with. A giant tower on the sunset side of Victoria Park / City Square seems a bit out of place.

    Preserve and retrofit the low buildings on Lorne. On the new lands a few blocks north, build the big shiny new building to contain our new library, art gallery, performance space, movie theatre, opera house, plant conservatory, planetarium …

  20. I think we have to keep in mind that this is only at the feasibility-study stage and, as such, isn’t a terrible place to start the discussion.

    I’m emphatically against tearing down the current building. I love it, but if it needs to be expanded, I think there are ways to incorporate the current structure into a new design. I find the tower element of the proposed design the least egregious aspect (though I think another hotel is hardly needed in the city – who are we expecting all of a sudden that we need all these hotels?). If the tower had a lot of glass in it, it would allow a lot of light to pour through (I agree with Dave Loblaw that it’d be a shame to cut off light to the park). Check out this light filled tower (it’s a lab building at the University of Toronto).

    http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/ccbr/index.htm

    As for erecting a new library in the soon-to-be former rail yards, I seriously doubt that any redevelopment hinging on 75% private investment will put much of a priority on cultural buildings. That space has clearly been earmarked for money-making ventures only. I think the best we can hope for there is a small branch to service any condos that go up in that area.

    P.S. @ Anonymous – I too visited the Millennium branch in Winnipeg a few weeks ago, and was struck by how well used it was. I’d go so far as to call it a thriving hub. As for your taking offense to “the creepy clientele that does make their day time home there…”, well that’s life. The point of a public library is that it’s open to the public. For a variety of reasons, some of the public don’t have homes or anywhere to go in the daytime, but still like to read newspapers and books. I hope that clears a few things up for you.

  21. “The point of a public library is that it’s open to the public.”

    You’re awesome, Vanda.

  22. i’m glad someone mentioned the barbican centre in london. it’s an amazing example of how you can renovate a mid-century modern complex to make it functional and economically viable for the 21st century, while leaving the original aesthetic intact. yale university did something similar with their refurbishment of rudolph hall a few years ago:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3053157669/in/set-72157594568297549/

    it seems as though more progressive urban centers are taking this route, however i fear that regina won’t revamp and update its notion of what a “heritage building” entails until it is too late. the original regina city hall was demolished in a similar occurrence of short-sightedness and no doubt we will keep making that same mistake over and over again.

    i don’t think the current library is an especially amazing structure, but it does have a certain elegance that is worth preserving and i do think the sunken courtyard/garden (with the broken columns) is a really eccentric feature that gives the space a unique character that is entirely lacking in the new proposed design. i’m not entirely against the new design either, though, like the new capital pointe building on albert, it’s more of the same generic, international style is striving to make all cities look identical.

  23. this is by far the most beautiful complex the province has ever seen love love the tower its about time way to go mayor pat

  24. Unless the Barbican has substantially improved over the past three decades, I can’t recommend it as an example of successful urban design.

    I lived in London for a bit in 1983 and went to the Barbican often because the Royal Shakespeare Company had its London base there.

    The Barbican was a ghost town,large, windswept empty public spaces and dimly lit dank passageways. It made what was otherwise a bustling, urban environment look like the set for a post-neutron bomb (remember that one?) zombie movie.

    Perhaps someone with more recent experience of the Barbican can let us know if it’s improved over the past 30 years.

    But it sure is nice to have this discussion of urban and design issues.

  25. awesome wow what a complex i know another city that will be very upset with this,finally some vision the tower is well needed its neet love it

  26. this is far the best thing ever it does not get any better than this just beautiful complex and tower

  27. Mark,

    i spent a lot of time at the barbican in 2009 and, from what i gathered, the whole area had been refurbished around 2005 to enhance and repair its 1960s style. basically it had been made to look even more “retro” than ever but also, by fixing its 1980s gloom and disrepair, clean, bright, and friendly. previously, in the 1990s, there was a misguided attempt to “update” the space by adding 90s design ideas and a more bland color scheme. this was an awkward fit within the inescapably mid-century aesthetic of the buildings in general and so it was eventually restored to its original glory.

    the barbican’s once “dated” feel has now become its biggest asset, since visitors now go to the space just to see its pristine vintage-futuristic design. here is a photo i took of a vibrant barbican interior in 2009:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasoncawood/3647752816

    currently, the education auditorium at the university of regina is undergoing a renovation. i have seen what’s going on and basically they are turning it into a 2000s space within a 1970s building. a sort of “blandizing” is going on to remove the bold ideas of the original architecture to make it more palatable for today’s less adventurous society. no one here seem to realize that the “out with the orange, in with the beige” school of renovations is no longer the only option. a smarter approach is to respect the intent of the original architect and just replace old orange with new orange. in some cases, this might even be a more affordable option. it worked at the barbican and the yale library i mentioned previously, and it can work here too, both at the university and the downtown library.

  28. I love the plans for the new library complex.But please what’s to love about Toronto’s Bloor Gladstone building?? Just a big glass cube or whatever you want to call it! How does that tie in with the historic building that it seems to be joined to?

  29. I hate the design and especially the hotel tower. I want a library that’s a library, not some add on to a hotel. If you think the parking at the main branch is bad now wait until you’re competing with a hotel and all the functions that go with it.

  30. JIM THE LAST POSTER IS FROM SAKATOON A REGINA HATER OF COURSE HE DOES NOT WANT THE HOTEL BUILT , if this was in saskatoon i wound not want this built either i would be so jealous what a incredable idea libray and hotel times have changed not just a boring libray anymore finalty someone with insight and VISION WAY TO GO GUYS

  31. are my eyes decieving me that is the most beautiful building i have ever seen in saskatchewan omg now that building is a show stopper thanks to the folks who desighned it

  32. i want to stay at that hotel and read my books at the porch on the park great idea for an even greater city

  33. How could any one hate that new library unless they are a regina hater this will take regina to the vancouver level in terms of beautiful architure ,if this is built wow wow wow

  34. how could anyone in there right mind hate this new complex it does not make any sense SPECTACULAR I DO SAY

  35. I love the new modern design. Quite frankly, the old library really doesn’t have much worth saving (other than the elephant outside on 12th Ave….reminds me of my youth). Incorporating a tower (condo or hotel) on top of a library is innovative and will hopefully help make the project more cost-effective. Regina needs all the development possible downtown…it’s stagnated for too long. The location of the proposed library & tower adjacent to Victoria Park and the City Square project will definitely contribute to the City Square. Hopefully Reginians are supportive…we have too many people in this city who only seem to care about surburban development and walmarts…as if they make a city the be all and end all. Let’s support innovative designs and projects that encourage our city to go up and not out. Perhaps then we’ll be able to afford to fix our urban sprawl.

  36. Can’t the freemasons building just be moved onto another empty lot in the core. Give the library the land, then have the library pay for the move. It seems like a fair trade. Also, if you moved anywhere in the vicinity of Broad St, you could even set up the lot to provide financial income for the freemasons through parking yet again. I don’t know where else you could move it to. Maybe by the legion. However, there are some new plans and concepts for that whole block that could maybe only allow the facade to be changed. Or, why not incorporate the freemasons building into a section of the library. It would be kind of cool to have the modern/old look in Regina. We don’t have many of those kinds of structures here.

  37. I wanted to put my name on post number 43. I for some reason left the slot blank. Anywho, thats me.

  38. They think we are going to fund an new library? It’s a dying institution. The only thing the library is good for now is computers for the homeless.

    They say some money comes from the lottery. You can see it’s 65% sold and the draw is on May 1!!!

  39. Does Regina really need a new expensive downtown library? Can the library justify the high cost of constructing and maintaining this type of facility when there are another EIGHT branches around the city? I would question how much the new library would be used given that downtown Regina has inadequate parking and this area can be quite dangerous at night. In this day and age, I am also very curious whether or not the community (and I mean ALL economic segments of the community) feels the need to fund this Titanic-looking monstrosity so that we can keep alive such a dated, old- fashioned-functioning type of institution.

  40. I can’t believe people still believe that the downtown is unsafe (during the day or at night). I lived in and around downtown for 8 years and still think it is the most interesting place to be in the city (and keeps getting safe because of the increased pedestrian traffic). This will only grow as the new pedestrian plaza is completed and the sidewalks and sight lines open up again. The Central library is a draw for many people in the city.

    Further – libraries are not dead institutions. In fact, they are some of the most progressive and innovative institutions that adapt with new technology and the needs in the community. The RPL has a fantastic (and ever growing) collection of comics and graphic novels, they offer computer literacy courses to get people up to speed who may not have regular exposure, and places like the Toronto library are innovating and experimenting with projects like the Human Library Project:

    http://www.yongestreetmedia.ca/features/humanbooks1208.aspx

    I think the question is, what type of renovations or additional spaces does the RPL need to continue giving back to the community and expanding it’s service? I don’t think this building is really it.

    p.s. As Vanda already pointed out, public means all of us regardless of means and life situation. Welcome to society.

  41. Laura – You say it isn’t dangerous downtown, but there was this one time I was in the park, and it was full of all these people who were different than me. I’ve worked too hard in my life to expose my money to these people. And once the park was full of bands playing music. Why should my tax dollars pay for music that other people get to hear? I couldn’t believe all the people out that day, stealing from me with their ears. Never again!

    Also, right next to the park there was this big building full of books and CDs and DVDs and a business resource centre and a movie theatre and English As A Second Language training and a local history room. People kept entering and exiting. It was so terrible, I nearly died of fright.

  42. Some libraries are progressive and innovative, while others remain stuck in past decades, are slow to make technological advances, and spread tax dollars too thin maintaining a lot of branches.

    I hang out at Chapters. LOL

  43. Actually Regina can be rather unsafe later in the evenings, obviously when there are not public events taking place in the park. I know this first hand unfortunately. Don’t be so quick to dismiss people’s concerns about their safety.

  44. Anonymous – I don’t mean to dismiss concern. I am just sick of people reciting sterotypes about how the downtown is so unsafe when really any place can be unsafe late at night. Lakeview is unsafe at night. The University can feel unsafe at night. Walking around suburbs is terrifying (day or night) because they are isolating. The downtown gets a bad wrap from peole who don’t spend time there and it’s tiresome.

    Meryl – the library provides a public service to all Reginans. They are building and expanding service because there is demand. You should really take advantage of it!

  45. I would hope that yet another library would only be a small piece of any major downtown complex, not a cornerstone. The new Prince of Wales library has been in the works for years and hasn’t opened and now a north central project is planned too. As for the downtown being safe, well I live here–it’s not. I love and attend the RPL theatre but public safety concerns do not seem to be among the Regina Public Library’s priorities.

  46. Re: safety: I live near downtown, work in the downtown, and have walked about at a lot of inappropriate late-night times. It’s pretty safe.

    Also, the O’Hanlon’s patio was going up today, which puts more eyes on the street and makes the area safer. Another reason downtown nightlife is good. More wanted!

  47. Laura: your anonymous friend has 10 comments in this thread, and you will be able to easily identify them all.

    Anonymous: if you’re going to leave 10 comments in one thread you should have a fun nickname! Jeez!

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