The Bing Thom-designed Surrey Central Library is ready for its reveal.


Since it’s been getting a lot of coverage already, I’ll just contribute some of my images sorted into a few categories, with comments below the fold.


Light – One


Light – Two


Light – Three


Space – One


Space – Two


Seat – One


Seat – Two


Seat – Three



Line – One


Line – Two


Line – Three



Got a tour with BTA architect Michael Heeney (below right).  Some observations:

The population of Surrey is now what Vancouver was when its central library was built.   But unlike the VPL, the Surrey Library is not primarily about storing the collecton but about spaces that will support community activities – from concerts to one-on-one tutorials.

Teenagers got their own space.  They even modeled furniture in play dough that we were able to base the seating design on (Seat – One above).

SFU will have rooms for Continuing Studies (the City Program’s Surrey Transportation Lecture Program will be taught there).  There are little rooms and separate quiet spaces. Small business meeting rooms can be booked.  There’ll be a coffee shop run by individual local proprietor.

The shape of the building was determined by the site.  (There’s no intent to evoke the image of a ship.)

The cost of the library is substantially less than other metro libraries.

Because of the speed necessary to get the building designed and constructed to meet a federal deadline, we used social media for community feedback – a blog, a Flickr site.  People would post pics of libraries they visited on summer holidays. Other libraries helped post non-computer users put up their images.  We found out what spaces people wanted from a far broader public – working parents, for instance – than we would normally get through usual consultation methods.  And the Library got more engaged in social media as a result of this success.

There’s a balance between light and energy.  Skylights, for instance, allow light but  lose heat.  So instead, we used an oculus, a ring that mimics the volume of space.  (See Light – One and Two above.)  A streak of light tracks around the room like a sundial.

A skylight at top of the stacks gives a wash of light on the back wall, allowing natural light in a space far from windows.

You can read the space immediately, organized around a combination of grand and intimate spaces (See Line – One above).

The reading room and the grand entrance are in double height spaces.  Two storeys up there’s a living room – a fireplace to anchor the third space.  (See Space – One above.)

Colour is predominately white to keep space bright and reflect light.

The design looks exotic and appears complicated to build, but it’s actually quite repetitive.  (See Line – Three above.)   The structure is the finish.

Lots of opportunity for watching people inside and out.  It’s already been embraced by community.

It has a state of the art RFID book sorting system, showcased behind glass – like watching the mini donuts at the PNE.


  1. Not sure that I like it from a Library perspective, in so far as the observation that it isn’t about housing an extensive and stimulating collection, more so about being a community centrepiece is apt (although I know that the initial observation was meant as a positive). That said the building is pretty impressive from a standpoint of encouraging community usage and continuing the revitalization of the neighbourhood. I don’t know that I actually love the building’s architecture, but it’s not terrible either.

  2. I dont know why they made it a stand alone building… I dont like the image “Line – Three”.
    That side of the building is not gonna attract any people, hopefully they build something else sharing that wall, or but a real nice mural. I cant stand blank walls!
    Inside is beautiful!

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