Design

BY THE NUMBERS: MacOdrum Library, an en-lightened space

BY SARAH BROWN
(Originally published in OTTAWA Magazine, September 2014 edition)

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MacOdrum Library’s showpiece: a helical staircase. Photo: Doublespace Photography

Throw out that archaic view of libraries as dark, dusty, solemn places, and welcome the new luminous interpretation put forth by Carleton University’s recently renovated and enlarged MacOdrum Library. Here, books may still be king, but it is the almighty window that hogs the spotlight. Sarah Brown heads back to school for a tour.

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Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library. Photo: Doublespace Photography

Built in 1958, MacOdrum Library had suffered through multiple piecemeal renovations over the years, including a disastrous 1980s revamp that saw the windows reduced in size and placed so high that even if a student nabbed a “window seat,” she’d have to stand to catch a glimpse of the great outdoors. That all changed this past spring with the completion of a dramatic expansion that saw the front of the building pushed out by six metres and enveloped in a fully glazed facade overlooking the campus green space known as The Quad. A showpiece helical staircase coils its way up through the storeys (and makes taking the stairs that much more appealing). Says university librarian Margaret Haines, who liaised closely with Diamond Schmitt Architects and Edward J. Cuhaci and Associates Architects before and during the construction: “Everyone loves the increased space and the new look. Suddenly, the library is far more busy, but students are that much more respectful of this beautiful space.”

By The Numbers:

  • 1 — Fault line runs through the building. For that reason, three-quarters of the new addition sits on a floating concrete raft slab. At 283 cubic metres in volume, the slab takes up the equivalent of almost two floors of the library’s books
  • 1 — Skylight
  • 2 — Treadmill desks located in the Discovery Centre on the fourth floor
  • 2 — High-end gaming stations in the gaming lab
  • 3 — Languages, English, French, and Algonquin, in the quotation by philosopher George Santayana that’s displayed above the main doors as students enter the library: Even the Wisest Mind Has Something Yet to Learn
  • 3 — 3-D devices in the Discovery Centre
  • 4 — Soaring wood sculptures on loan from local artist David Fels
  • 5 – Spiral sections of steel that make up the staircase. Each section weighs more than a ton and had to be lifted into place by crane
  • 9 – Men needed to carry the 1913 Steinway grand piano up to the fifth floor. Donated by Hamilton Southam, the storied instrument is uncovered for intimate concerts and master classes. Music lovers rave about the acoustics — and the view
  • 24 – Hours a day the library is open in the lead-up to exams
  • 27 — Cost of the expansion in millions, of which $16.7 million came from the Province of Ontario and the rest from the university
  • 30 — Months in construction
  • 1,100 — Panes of glass in the shiny new facade
  • 74,000 — Square feet of space added during the renovation