Centennial College’s new library brightens up Scarborough neighbourhood

Situated at the intersection of Highway 401 and Markham Road, Centennial College’s new library at Progress Avenue is a real eye-catcher.

The design of this 103,500-square-foot facility was headed by Diamond + Schmitt architects, who are also responsible for building the University of Toronto Scarborough campus’ new Instructional Centre that opened up last month.  The college spent $34-million to create this four-storey library where students could come every day to use its computer facilities and group study rooms.

“This is so much more than just a library building,” said Sydney Browne, the Principal Architect at Diamond + Schmitt.

“The building stands as a welcoming entry to the college and connects to other existing school buildings on campus.  It gives a more visible identity to the college.”

“There are over 1,000 new classroom spaces, a lot more computers and a lot more student space.  The building ranks very highly in energy efficiency.  We have already submitted our architectural plan to the Canada Green Building Council.”

Having just opened on Sept. 8th, the learning centre’s exterior is framed by large dark bricks and tall copper-coloured glass panes.

On the inside, the college’s brand new architecture makes its statement by installing a four-storey high green living wall.  This is a Canadian-owned technology pioneered by Alan Darlington, a biologist and inventor of the Nedlaw bio filter living wall.

“The technology is based on studies back in the early 90’s when I was doing research at the University of Guelph,” said Darlington.

“I think it’s very exciting that the wall is a way of bringing nature back indoors.  It is really effective at cleaning the air in an energy-efficient way.”

Ashley Bachar, a first year Architectural Technician student at the college also likes the idea of the bio filter wall on campus.

“I like the colours of the wall, it is very eco-friendly and I think it brings more people together because they enjoy the environment here,” she said.  “I take courses down at the Morningside campus but I prefer commuting here to study because the place is nicer.  I am now telling all my friends to come too.”

Laced on the surface of the wall are branches and shrubs of green plants such as ivy and rubber trees.  There is a non-stop flow and exchange of a veil of water from top to bottom.  The sound of the trickling liquid movement not only brings a calming peace to the quiet library, but also reminds visitors of the natural sounds of a tropical rainforest.

The innovative wall is a main attraction of this new establishment that gets not only the college’s students but also nearby Scarborough residents talking.

“This is a very fresh type of architecture,” said Abraham Iki, a project executive of Bell Canada Enterprises and one of Centennial College’s professors of project management.

“A lot of the residents nearby have come up to me and asked me about this college because they see this new building when they’re driving by Markham Road on the 401.”

Having lived in Scarborough before, Darlington also feels that the new library brings a breath of fresh air to Scarborough’s architectural scene.

“I lived at Victoria Park and Kingston Road and I loved that part of town, but things could definitely be better,” said Darlington.

“There is some old infrastructure that needs maintenance, but I see a current group of architects trying to move forwards and create better designs and higher sustainability for this area.  I would expect to see more cutting-edge buildings in Scarborough.”