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A "grand urban gesture, masterfully executed"

Posted by Laura / April 12, 2007

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So wrote the jury for the 2007 Library Building Awards about Montreal's very own Grande Bibliothéque, which won first place in the competition. The annual award is co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association. The other 2007 recipients included libraries from New York to California, as well as one in Foshan, China. Here's what else the judges said:

“At once urban, human scaled, and extraordinarily open, the building succeeds by its exquisite use of materials and detailing both inside and outside. There is a peaceful, tranquil feel that provides a welcome contrast to its grand urban gesture, masterfully executed. The architects were at the top of their game.”
Oh judges, you're making us blush. Of course, anyone who's been inside the Big Library (doesn't have the same ring in English) knows what a beautiful space it is, as well as its functionality. I love how it interacts with the city around it; multiple entrances (including direct metro access), outdoor space for smokers and loungers, and its late opening hours make the library a true public space. But its striking facade, interior design, and wealth of resources also set it apart as a destination.

(Picture from Patkau Architects, one of three firms who worked on this project.)


Discussion

12 Comments

Kate M. / April 12, 2007 at 10:35 am
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It's a great building and well conceived, but it has a barrier perimeter around it because those pretty glass panels are prone to suddenly going "sproing!" and falling off. Bit of a glaring flaw, what?
laura / April 12, 2007 at 10:40 am
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Ah yes, the "striking facade." I totally agree that beautiful architecture must coexist with people (Gehry's LA building is so shiny that it causes pedestrians sunburn!), but I can't help loving the BANQ despite its flaws.
Christopher DeWolf / April 12, 2007 at 06:12 pm
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I think the library functions beautifully but I've always found it to look a bit squat. Still, a minor quibble.

I am a bit anxious about when they're finally going to resolve the falling-glass problem. Last I heard an awning will be added to the alley side of the building. This is important because, unbeknownst to most people, there is actually supposed to be a used book market in those shallow retail spaces. I'm eager to see that open.
laura / April 12, 2007 at 07:10 pm
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Christopher: A used book market would be great. So it's going to be outside?

Last time I was there I saw the new-ish cafe that opened on the ground floor on the alley side and thought that section of the library was turning out very nicely.
Jon / April 13, 2007 at 02:13 pm
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I think it is translated more effectively as 'The Great Library'... I don't know if that's official, but it makes more sense.
Christopher DeWolf / April 15, 2007 at 09:52 pm
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Laura, I assume the book market would be half-outside, half-inside. The retail spaces are only two or three metres deep and they have big sliding windows instead of doors. I have to admit I haven't heard any mention of this book market since the library actually opened, though. But then again, the library was also supposed to have a café and only now has it opened.

As for the name of the library, I've always liked what Kate M. calls it: the Big Bibliothèque.

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