Oak Ridges Library

Richmond Hill, Ontario
A Civic Landmark for a Community Rooted in Local History

The Oak Ridges Library replaces an outdated facility within the burgeoning Oak Ridges community neighbourhood immediately north of Richmond Hill’s downtown core. The project responds to the City’s strategic plan by introducing a more interactive and inclusive setting for social exchange, collaborative learning, and creative exploration.

The building is configured around two compact floor plates interconnected by a dramatic double height living room space which establish the social focal point of the library. A series of multifunctional break out rooms hosting a digital media lab, computer learning centre, and community program spaces complement the more open collection and study spaces on each floor in addition to dedicated teen and early years zones. A seamless integration of technology and automated systems, including self check out and automated book sorter, further enhance flexibility and reinforce the Library’s strong commitment to point of use customer service.

― What it is
A library that delivers traditional services in a more people-focused, interactive, and collaborative way.

Natural Landscape

The building is inspired by the Oak Ridges moraine which runs through this zone of the City. This is expressed not only in the building’s locally inspired material palette, but also in its distinctive landscape treatment. Within this natural landscape, a series of pathways and interactive signs have been integrated to help educate the public on the local flora and fauna and to help activate the spaces around the building.

A dramatic double height porch element provides an inviting entrance from both the street and adjacent parking area.

Flexible and Adaptable Space

Minimal use of physical walls ensures maximum flexibility of use of spaces and zones. Public areas are convertible to accommodate day-to-day uses and special events. Adaptable design strategies include use of access flooring throughout the major public spaces to enable ease of re-cabling in the future.

The urban living room with oversized sliding glass doors allowing the space to convert into a large indoor and outdoor event space.
Teen area with lounge seating and inset study alcoves.
With a strong emphasis on ‘people spaces’ rather than ‘book spaces’, Oak Ridges is a modern reflection of the evolving role of libraries in communities today.

Sustainability and Mass Timber

The building design approaches sustainability holistically, incorporating Mass Timber construction, achieving reductions in energy and potable water, and incorporating an environmentally conscious material selection process.

The building is oriented to maximize daylighting while mitigating solar glare through the more intense heating periods of the year and integrates a series of fixed louvers sized and spaced based on computer simulation along its southeastern façade. An extensive green roof above the children’s area and bio swale along the street edge help to encourage infiltration and reduce the flow of storm water into the municipal system, as well as providing an important connection to the natural landscape. The building integrates energy efficient lighting, a high-performance building envelope as well as FSC certified wood and local stone.

A regulated structure of heavy timber frames helps define the main public space of the facility also referencing the unique cultural heritage of the area—a former farming and cottage community.


The project is distinguished by its unique materiality incorporating an elegantly detailed SPF glue laminated timber structure throughout its main collection and reading spaces complemented by a series of Douglas fir infill wall and ceiling panels. This is contrasted with a robust palette of natural stone laid in a horizontally striated pattern which defines the more opaque staff zones and lab spaces along the north façade of the building.

These materials immediately evoke a sense of history, recalling the traditional agricultural structures of the region as well as its natural landscape, while at the same time asserting a bold sense of modernity. This is reinforced through the generous use of glass that enables the spaces to be generously infused with natural light, transforming the main wood lined reading room into a glowing beacon to the surrounding community at night.

A series of naturalized zones and green roof element further enhance the building’s frontage, reinforcing the strong environmental mandate of the design. The facility is targeting LEED Gold certification with integrated water, energy, and resource management strategies.

Project Team

Phil Fenech
Duff Balmer
Zeina Elali