The site of the New Central Library is as inspiring as it is challenging. Fourteen years in the making, the project has brought together individuals and teams of people that are experts in their fields—from city planners to architects, engineers, designers, and hundreds of others. It’s safe to say that along the way, most everyone who worked on the NCL faced a challenge—and with it the chance to come up with a solution.
“The biggest challenge on this project was the site itself with the LRT running underneath. That’s what we call a ‘problertunity’: a problem and an opportunity,” says Rob Adamson, Principal, DIALOG. The ‘problertunity’ in this case was a train system that comes from the south and heads to the north, rising 17 feet and bisecting the building site in a curving geometry. The New Central Library had to be built on top of that. But the challenging setting came to define the NCL. You could say the site was in itself a key driver of the form, the curving and the shape of the building. “The building is an alignment of the LRT system that runs underneath it,” says Adamson.
“This was a large project, but in a way it was no different than a smaller one,” adds Simon Rainsbury, Senior Vice President at Colliers, the company responsible for ensuring the work was carried out on time and on budget (hint: it was!). No novella, the NCL project was more like a thick Russian novel: a page-turner with many chapters, lots of colourful characters, a few plot twists along the way, but certainly one you could not wait to see what happens at the end. “As a project manager or leader you have to break it down,” says Rainsbury. “The longevity and length of the project was a challenge, so making sure we had the right time that would work over the long haul was key.”
Brock Schroeder and Ian Washbrook of Entuitive, the company that provided structural engineering services, agree. “The challenge of building over an active rail line meant coming up with an encapsulation design that limited the downtime for one of the busiest LRT lines in the city,” says Schroeder. “It took a lot of coordination between architecture and structure,” adds Washbrook. Because much of the structure is exposed, there is a higher level of finish. “It was a fun opportunity to work closely with the architecture team. What the building needed to be was supported by the structure we were designing,” he says.