This Bookless Library Devotes an Entire Building to Makerspaces

Designed by Toronto-based RDH Architects (RDHA) and located in Cambridge, Ontario, the library sits within a limestone building originally constructed in 1885.

Idea Exchange Old Post Office Ontario
Idea Exchange Old Post Office is a “bookless library” that features, among other amenities, a boardroom and “discovery centre.” Courtesy Tom Arban

Are traditional library stacks a thing of the past? Not quite, but over the past decade, it’s become the norm not only to borrow books from your local branch but also to make use of its 3D printers or green-screen rooms. In the Canadian city of Cambridge, Ontario, the regional library has gone a step further by devoting an entire building to makerspaces. Called Idea Exchange Old Post Office, the bookless library occupies four levels in a riverside limestone building originally constructed in 1885, and offers visitors of every age a multitude of things to do, from interacting with talking robots or building on Lego walls to trying a hand at woodworking, soldering, and laser cutting.

To convert the building, which had been used most recently as a nightclub, Toronto’s RDH Architects (RDHA) gutted the interior and opened up the attic to reveal usable space between massive trusses. The firm also restored the structure’s old clock tower, outfitting it with a glass ceiling to offer views of the clock’s internal workings. But the most dramatic gesture is on the main level, where a fritted glass pavilion cantilevers 20 feet over the Grand River. The 9,000-square-foot volume, which houses a café, lounge area, and industrial kitchen, hangs from structural rods, allowing its floor plate to be a mere six inches thick. On the unlikely chance water levels rise above the floor plate, a buoyancy allowance will prevent the pavilion from being swept away or destroyed. “There were a lot of risks taken with this project,” says lead architect and RDHA principal Tyler Sharp, “but it’s all been worth it.”

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