When Vancouver Public Library (VPL)’s central branch opened in 1995, its top two floors were leased to the provincial government on a 20-year tenancy as part of a financing project.
When the long-term lease ended in 2015, planning and construction for the central library’s eighth and ninth levels proceeded immediately. On Saturday (September 29), those top two floors will be open to the public for the first time.
The highly anticipated project adds 42,000-square-feet of new indoor space to the VPL’s central branch, which includes various amenities such as a glass-enclosed reading room, bookable meeting rooms, exhibit and gallery space, an 80-seat theatre, outdoor terraces, and a rooftop garden.
“In a 2017 study, it found that people feel an increasing sense of social isolation and they’re really looking for public spaces to connect in person,” Christina de Castell, VPL’s chief librarian, told the press at the central library. “This is something that the public library offers to people every day. This is the reason we thought that opening up these new spaces was so important.”
The two-level expansion adds a welcomed public space to the downtown Vancouver core. It features plenty of natural lighting, garden and city views, as well as quiet rooms for reading and studying.
There’s also a snack lounge for people to have a drink or bite in the library. An on-site café won’t be available, but visitors can bring their own food or check out the vending machines in this space.
According to Castell, the rooftop garden has been one of the most requested spots by the public. It covers approximately 7,400-square-feet, and was designed by renowned landscape architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.
Safdie Architects and DA Architects were the original designers of the building, and they were commissioned to oversee the new expansion as well. It cost $16.8 million for the transformation, jointly covered by the City of Vancouver, Government of Canada, and private donors through the VPL’s private foundation.
For those who don’t visit the massive library often, the expanded facility is worth checking out.
“It’s a new space where they can come to connect with each other, to meet, enjoy, and escape in the city,” de Castell told the Straight in an interview at the central library. “There aren’t many places where you can go as a member of the public and enjoy a rooftop garden as beautiful as this. We’re excited to have this new landscape and new view of the city that everyone in Vancouver can enjoy.”
The grand opening of the expansion takes place this Saturday (September 29) at 10 a.m.
Scroll through the photos below for a first look inside VPL’s top two floors.