The exterior walls of Surrey’s newest building lean back into what looks like a comfortable reading position.
On Tuesday morning, the sun-drenched interior of the 77,000-sq.-ft. City Centre Library was buzzing with activity as staff stocked shelves with books for the upcoming opening.
The Bing Thom Architects-designed building went up quickly due to a compressed deadline in order to receive federal funding.
“It was built about twice as fast as you would normally do,” said Michael Heeney, principle and executive director for Bing Thom Architects. Despite that, the $36-million project came in on time and on budget. (The federal and provincial governments each provided $10 million, with the City of Surrey funding the rest).
Entering the building, one is struck by the intense light provided by the design. The floor-to-ceiling windows splay outward, preventing direct sunlight, but affording ample ambient light, which is intensified by the all-white interior.
At the top of the four-storey building is what Heeney calls a halo skylight, a circular piece of glass with a white board hanging below it, causing a halo lighting effect.
At one time of the day, the skylight will cast light on the Leader Living Room (named after this newspaper). Hours later, as the sun moves across the sky, the light will hit the laptop lounge.
The new North Surrey facility is equipped with a cafeteria, a children’s library, a children’s play area and a world languages area, with books in 15 different languages.
There will also be a “Human Library” where people will be on loan to users, who can borrow for an hour or so.
Volunteers, who will be the human books, may have particular religious or life experience people might want to talk with them about. They also may have children with autism, or some other challenge, that borrowers may want explore with them.
How big the program gets will likely be dependent on the number of volunteers who come forward and offer their time, said Chief Librarian Beth Barlow.
The library also has an area called “Read-Ability,” which will house audio books, videos and a special computer for those who have vision disabilities that will read the print to them from the screen.
There are luna chairs, egg-shaped features that surround the person sitting in them. Anyone with an mp3 player can plug into the chairs and listen to surround sound, which remains contained within the cloth chair.
There is even a meditation room, which also serves as a Muslim prayer room facing northeast to Mecca.
Architect Bing Thom approached the design from the notion that libraries are no longer just repositories for books.
“The design evolves out of the need to provide space for reading, studying, and above all, gathering as a community,” Thom said. “This building is very flexible and will accommodate all of these purposes, but does so in a way that will intrigue and entice users through the building.”
With that in mind, there are more than 80 computers throughout the building, and wifi access so those with laptops and tablets can access the Internet.
On one end of the third floor is a teen lounge with funky furniture, while on the other is a glassed-in quiet study area. In between, several sofas and a fireplace mark the Leader Living Room.
On the second floor, several computers are lined up in the computer learning centre, designed to help new users.
Up on the fourth floor, the library will be home to Simon Fraser University classes and DiverseCity english as a second language courses.
The City Centre Library will be three times larger than the biggest library in Surrey, housing more than 100,000 books (and the ability to hold 150,000). For regional perspective, it will be the third largest library in Metro Vancouver, after Vancouver and Burnaby’s at Metrotown.
It boasts a number of “green” features, including a green roof and a room that will eventually house geothermal heating. The building will aim for LEED Silver certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system.
The 10350 University Drive facility will open to the public later this month, with a grand opening celebration slated for Sept. 24, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.