World-renowned architect Bing Thom and Principal and Executive Director Michael Heeney of Bing Thom Architects with the 3-D model new Surrey City Centre Library at their Vancouver offices on Thursday, June 10, 2010. Bing
Thom will be speaking to the Surrey Board of Trade.
Photograph by: Les Bazso, PNG
Surrey’s new City Centre Library will be an extension of the home, its architect said Thursday.
“It’s a community room. It just happens to store books,” Vancouver architect Bing Thom told The Province in a telephone interview.
Thom was scheduled to talk about the library Thursday night at an event at the Simon Fraser University Surrey campus.
The 77,000-square-foot library — which is already under construction and scheduled to be finished in spring 2011 — takes inspiration from “hugely successful” Central City, which Thom’s firm designed almost 10 years ago to meld an existing shopping mall with office space and a university campus.
The library features lots of big windows, grand staircases, plenty of room to move around and a centre atrium that cuts through all four floors. Thom said it has been described as looking like a cruise ship or a carved First Nations box.
“[The design] evolves out of the natural need of the site and the function that comes with the library,” Thom said. “The building is designed to be very flexible.”
People in urban areas live in fewer square feet now, Thom pointed out, and need somewhere to go when they want to get out of the house.
Thom said the library will include gathering places for the community, a learning centre, comfortable spots to read and study and extra space for the nearby university.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said the city wanted to make sure the library met the needs of the public.
“Typically libraries have been . . . a lot of books and this certainly is not that,” she said.
Surrey’s chief librarian, Beth Barlow, said there will be less emphasis on collections, and more emphasis on spaces for people to connect with each other.
“The building is quite different than anything I’ve been involved with before,” Barlow said.
“The world is changing . . . We’re sure trying to keep up with some of those changes to provide options for people and still connect them with a good read or information or other people.”
Barlow said it’s not often that a library gets to help shape a city’s downtown.
The library, which will replace the Whalley branch but serve the whole city, is part of the Build Surrey infrastructure program, and the first phase of development in Surrey’s city centre.
“One of the things we wanted in our city centre was an iconic building, and the regional library is definitely that,” said Watts.
“It certainly raises the bar in terms of our expectations and what we want as we move forward on the buildings that will go into the city centre.”
Watts said Whalley has changed for the better recently and the library shows that the city is serious about continuing the change.
“This is the beginning of a whole new civic initiative that’s going to transform the area yet again,” Thom said. “Certainly we’ve set a standard that everyone else will have to match.”
Thom is convinced of the ability of architecture to improve the surrounding area and hopes to do more work in Surrey.
“Surrey used to be the joke of Vancouver. Well, it’s not going to be a joke. People are starting to see that it’s the future,” Thom said.
The city borrowed $16 million to cover its portion of the $36-million library cost. The federal and provincial governments have committed $10 million each.
Projects slated for the city centre include a new 165,000-square-foot City Hall (to be completed in 2013) and a performing arts centre.