The new Surrey City Centre Library is part of a major civic investment aiming to transform the downtown Surrey into an attractive commercial area. Designed by Bing Thom Architects, the library is currently under construction with its opening scheduled for September 2012. The project was funded as part of Canada’s Federal Infrastructure program, but the firm decided to use social media to circumvent the standard (and lengthy) community consultation process. The architects developed a social media strategy using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr to speed things up. BTA worked with Surrey librarians to create a blog on the library website which, in turn, was linked to a Flickr site where BTA posted photos of libraries and other spaces the firm liked. Members of the community were encouraged to post comments and photos.
The building includes a diverse mixture of large interconnected “high” spaces with generous natural light and “low” more intimate spaces to accommodate the book stacks and individual activities like studying and writing. These spaces are modulated throughout the complex, and are revealed as patrons explore the building. For instance, one of the most dramatic spaces is the “living room,” a casual reading area adjacent to massive windows overlooking a future public plaza to the east, is in a double height space that is not apparent until you reach the third floor. In all cases, the spaces have been deliberately kept informal to make the library feel like an extension of the patron’s home. As Thom says, “The design evolves out of the need to provide a space for reading, studying, and above all, gathering as a community. This building is very flexible and will accommodate all of these purposes, but does so in a way that will intrigue and entice the users through the building.”