Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners

Text description provided by the architects. The Albert Campbell Branch Library opened its doors in 1971 to serve Scarborough’s diverse community. In this rapidly growing Toronto suburb, the brutalist building stood as a beacon to the community. But after five decades, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) recognized the need for upgrades to meet contemporary needs. Working with LGA Architectural Partners, the design studio behind the celebrated Scarborough Civic Centre Library Branch, TPL sought to reimagine Albert Campbell as a more welcoming hub that brings people together and is connected to the community.

Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Exterior Photography, Facade, Windows

Originally, TPL believed that an expansion or a replacement would be necessary. However, LGA’s careful analysis revealed that 25% of the back-of-house space could be repurposed for public use by unlocking and reconnecting the buried first floor. This approach has enabled TPL to satisfy many of its wider visionary objectives such as sustainability and placemaking.

Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Image 20 of 20

LGA began by relocating the main entrance from the second to the first floor. Previously, visitors accessed the building via an upward ramp, which created a dark and underutilized ground level. By carefully reshaping the land downward to follow the natural topography of the site, LGA redirected the library’s main entrance to the first floor. With new windows, the library’s first floor is now intimately connected to the front landscape. To ensure that the library is a culturally safe and relevant space for Toronto’s Indigenous communities, TPL brought Miinikaan Innovation and Design on to consult, design, and build an entry landscape that includes a medicine wheel garden, native plantings, and a mural wall by Red Urban Nation Artist Collective.

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When five grandfather trees had to be removed for the topographical change in the front landscape, a ceremony was held to honor the trees and they were salvaged and dried for use in the future fit-out of the library’s smudging room. Inside LGA cut a new floor opening above the entry and removed walls, allowing visitors to experience horizontal and vertical views into the entire branch.

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Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Interior Photography, Kitchen, Stairs, Handrail
Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Interior Photography, Table, Chair

The design team introduced large east and west-facing windows to draw in both daylight and verdant community views. A new elevator visually orients visitors with its red-toned nod to the past color scheme while providing barrier-free access to all areas of the building, particularly to the previously limited-access double height, subterranean community room, and rooftop terrace.

Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Interior Photography, Kitchen, Shelving
Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Interior Photography, Shelving, Chair, Windows

The design team adjusted the ceilings’ wave geometries, replacing red metal with wood slats, to establish a balanced warm atmosphere, improve acoustics, and also hide new mechanical and electrical systems. They also introduced unique millwork service points to help people intuitively orient themselves through the space. These information touch-down points operate as book displays, self-check-out stations, and nodes to connect with staff. Of reinventing the building, LGA Partner, Brock James notes, “We aim to make libraries flexible and inclusive places grounded in the local community. At Albert Campbell, this meant adopting a re-use mindset, and reimagining the branch’s potential to connect and inspire people.” 

Toronto Public Library – Albert Campbell Branch / LGA Architectural Partners - Interior Photography, Kitchen, Windows

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