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More than 40 years later, Robarts Library is getting its third pavilion

As part of a massive restoration project, Robarts will finally get a third pavilion on its west side.

When the University of Toronto’s iconic John P. Robarts Library was completed in 1973, two pavilions flanked the enormous main building: the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Claude T. Bissell Building.
But on the Huron Street side, there was supposed to have been a third pavilion, which was never built.
When Diamond Schmitt Architects studied Robarts for the first phase of a $65-million renovation of Robarts—a phase which maximized the study space inside the triangle-shaped library and brought in more light—they uncovered breakout panels that were intended to connect to the unbuilt third pavilion on the loading dock side of the building.
“There is no plan that anybody can find anywhere, but there is a diagram in the opening-book brochure that shows a dotted line where that third pavilion was supposed to be,” says Gary McCluskie, a principal at Diamond Schmitt. “As part of that renovation work we started working on a plan for what could be built on that west side of the building.”
The discovery turned into an idea. The development application for the new Robarts Common expansion, about 56,000 square feet over five storeys, was filed earlier this month. And so more than 40 years later, Robarts will finally get its third pavilion.
But while original plan was for a 500-seat classroom/special events room, the new building will instead provide 1,222 seats of study space. The free-standing structure, which will connect to the main building via bridges over the loading dock, also shuns the brutal concrete architectural style that has made the original building so famous—or infamous, as the case may be. The five storeys will have a much more contemporary look that recognizes Robarts dramatic style without replicating it. Metal facets will mimic the metal on the existing building. There will be lots of glass, but blinds and fretting on the glass will reduce the amount of light that comes out of the building.
“What was really engaging about this project was finding the ways we could be similar so it fits in but is of our time today building for something that’s serving a new purpose,” says McCluskie.
Rest assured, since the new build is on the Huron Street side, the building’s striking resemblance to a turkey or peacock, when seen from the George Street side, won’t be affected.
If everything goes according to plan, construction could start next winter with an opening two years after that.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Gary McCluskie and Larry Alford
Photo Credit: University of Toronto
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