Halifax 2011 – Peripatetic peregrinations

Aristotle generally taught while strolling through the Lyceum in Athens. That’s the origin of the word “peripatetic”, which now also has the meaning of walking about from place to place, or, itinerant. “Peregrination” means a journey, especially by foot. The Peripatetic school was based on Aristotle’s philosophy of inductive reasoning—one starts with the facts given by experience.

Walking Halifax and looking at the plans for the new downtown library branch…

The Public Gardens in Halifax. A formal Victorian garden, the Public Gardens opened in 1867, and has changed little since then. http://www.halifaxpublicgardens.ca/

The Halifax Public Gardens were extensively damaged by Hurricane Juan in 2003. Major restoration was undertaken and is still ongoing.

Hurricane Juan had left its mark on Halifax. The gift shops have books on the 2003 hurricane. The trees that were knocked down were turned into gifts, such as wooden cutting boards and wooden jewel boxes. In February 2004 Halifax was hit by “White Juan”, a powerful nor’easter. Rare for Halifax, the storm brought a heavy snowfall. The tour guide on my Halifax ghost walk talked about how he was stuck on a train for about 12 hours more than scheduled because of snowfall up to 150 cm and heavy winds across Nova Scotia. A clerk at a gift shop at the Pier 21 museum was a student at the time and relished the fact that schools were closed for up to a week.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has many figureheads from ships. This figurehead was from the Imaum, a ship built in 1826. It was given to the Royal Navy by the Imaum of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

Merlin, the rainbow macaw at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, loves to chat it up with the tourists.

The museum is also home to a great Titanic exhibit.

A replica of a deck chair from the Titanic. Of the three people walking towards the camera in the photograph, the women survived, but the man went down with the Titanic.

In 1917, just before the munitions ship, the Mont-Blanc, exploded in Halifax Harbour, train dispatcher Vincent Colemen sent a telegram to warn a train that danger was ahead. Coleman died in the explosion.

Many watches stopped at the time of the explosion, 9:04 am. The explosion was the largest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb.

Heritage Minutes–Halifax Explosion








barometerBarometer Rising, by Hugh MacLennan, is an iconic Canadian novel set during the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917.

Halifax City Hall. The clock on the other side of the tower is also stuck at 9:04 am, commemorating the time of the Halifax Explosion.

Government House, where Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor lives—the oldest viceregal residence in North America. This is where the Queen or her family members stay while in Halifax. After a major restoration, the building was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth II on June 28, 2010.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax. The art gallery has grown significantly in the last 25 years.

ship “Shipping at Low Tide”, c1820. A rare, early, painted view of Halifax Harbour in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. From Collection Highlights at http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca.

I visited this branch of the Halifax Public Library just down the street from the hotel I stayed at. The Spring Garden Road branch is the downtown Halifax branch and the largest branch of the system (at only 38,000 square feet). It opened in 1951 as a memorial to Halifax’s World War I and World War II casualties. The statue of Winston Churchill was unveiled in 1980.
Sources: http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/, http://www.halifax.ca/cah/publicart.html

On one of my tours, I learned that Churchill, after touring Halifax in 1943, said to the mayor, “Now, sir, we know your city is something more than a shed on a wharf’”.

Halifax is planning a new central library. I took the following photo of the parking lot where the new building will be located. In the distance is the Spring Garden Road branch (the grey building). The current digging is because of the required archaeological study.


Below is a conceptual drawing of the new library branch from http://www.halifaxcentrallibrary.ca/


This is the architects’ presentation from November 4, 2010:

Some highlights from the presentation:

There will be exterior bookdrops. We are also trying to have a lay‐by on Queen Street so you can stop at the side, run to the book drop a few meters away and back to your car (similar to Keshen Goodman Library). We are working with HRM Traffic Engineering now to integrate this into the design.

We too recognize the acoustic requirements within the new library where people want open, accessible spaces with collaborative study areas, children’s areas and activity areas where conversation and activity is permitted and even encouraged, all in the same ‘space’ as the more traditional parts of the library.

With this modern library concept the objective and challenge is to achieve a balance between the containment of local noise to the local area, such as a children’s play/learning area and performance/ activity areas, while maintaining a generally open space.

As you may have seen at Public Consultation #1, we illustrated the large team of specialist consultants we have for this project.

One of these specialists is an acoustical consultant dedicated to working on this aspect of the project with us. They have experience with exactly these sorts of issues with several public and university libraries, and other similar projects. We have had several meetings already on this aspect of the project and will continue to do so as the library design is
further refined.

Truly sustainable design is a holistic enterprise encompassing concepts such as health and wellness, democracy, human scale and social responsibility.

The new library must be:

• Socially Sustainable ‐ if the building is not relevant to the community and is not fully utilized, it cannot be considered sustainable! The building must reflect the hopes and dreams of the community it serves. These consultations and the consultations held in 2008 reflect that.

• Economically Sustainable ‐ if we cannot afford to build it or to operate it, it cannot be considered sustainable!

• Environmentally Sustainable ‐ many of the aspirations we’ve heard for the new library reflect environmental objectives:
– access to lots of natural light, great views
– use of natural and healthy materials
– direct visual access between interior and exterior
– ‘bring the green indoors’
– accessible green roof and a winter garden

We have a specialist consulting firm dedicated to working with us on this aspect of the project. We are striving to do the best we can. All new buildings in HRM must target LEED Silver certification. We are aiming for LEED Gold and striving to achieve this. We want the new library to be exemplary of sustainable design in the most holistic way.

We are striving to design the building with the widest possible range of users in mind, not only those with physical challenges and the elderly but also people of all ages and

There are many issues to be addressed to create an environment that is usable and welcoming to everyone, but we will be following the principles of equality, flexibility,
simplicity, safety and ease of use.

We want to tailor the building to a broad range of cognitive, sensory and mobility capacities to create an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of people within our society and removes unnecessary barriers. This includes children, and parents with children and strollers.

Some very basic things include wide aisles, wider turning radii for wheelchairs, no steps at entrances, larger washrooms that are easy to find, and safe, and also ‘family’ types of washrooms.

We are setting up a community working group to specifically address all aspects of accessibility as we move further into the development of the design.

And surely an inclusive library is a more sustainable library too!

Integrated art:
HRM has a budget of almost a half million dollars dedicated to the incorporation of public art into the new library building. (We cannot touch this money by the way!)

In the very near future HRM will be issuing a Request for Qualifications to the art community.

We are looking forward to the proposals and then working with a number artists in this amazing opportunity and initiative for the municipality and the library.

Reflection of Halifax:
Although the new building has a different physical representation from other buildings in Halifax, it reflects our local and regional cultural aspirations.

1. It occupies a significant corner in the downtown core and creates spaces and places for its citizens to gather and interact, both outside and inside.

2. It visually connects two important views of our Maritime history: The Citadel and the Harbour. Besides offering some great actual views, these are also conceptually important. Halifax has always had a connection to the rest of world through its harbour. Libraries offer a connection to the world too. Not only will we be able to connect visually to the Citadel and the harbour we will be able to connect to the community…..and the world.

3. We are referencing the history of the fantastic spring garden that used to occupy this exact site many years ago and gave a name to the street it faces. There will be green within the building, but also a green motif on the exterior walls recollecting those gardens and the surrounding trees. We are bringing back the green and creating a winter garden as a complement to the summer garden, The Public Gardens.

4. The building represents a bold new direction for the municipality. It is open, democratic and welcoming. It represents the creativity and talent of the citizens of Halifax. It is a building of our time and our aspirations for the future.

Size of the collection:
The collection in the new library will be 50% bigger than what is currently in the Spring Garden Road Branch. What you are also seeing in the new library, and what may be deceiving you from appreciating this fact, are all the other public spaces people have asked for such as reading spaces, study and meeting spaces, as well as access to technology. These spaces make the collection appear smaller, but it’s actually larger.

There will lots of computers for everyone; many around the atrium. These will be able to be changed as the technology changes.

There will be dedicated catalogue access terminals, throughout the building.

There will be gaming stations available, for all age groups, throughout.

Besides the public access to technology that will be available, there will also be a music lab where you can record your own music, and share it or leave it as part of the library collection.

And there will be power and Wi‐Fi connections throughout if you chose to come with your own laptop.

Variety of reading, seating and study areas:
You will see a variety of spaces throughout the building; some open to the atrium; some cozy and secluded.

There will be open reading areas and a mix of seating and furniture types.

There will be seminar‐type rooms and well as small and intimate spaces.

There will be study cells.

And there is also the Halifax Living Room on Level 5.

Staff to help:
Yes, there will be staff to help. There is a ‘Welcome Desk’ immediately upon entering the building and a Customer Service desk at this level.

There will be staffed information desks at each level, usually two per floor.

You will continue to get the same friendly service from the same staff at the current Spring Garden Road branch; only more of them.

Variety of program and meeting spaces:
There is a variety of program spaces in the new library. There are program rooms dedicated to children and others to adult learning.

There is the ‘City Space’ on Level 1 that will facilitate any number and variety of community cultural events, both big and small.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Halifax 2011 – Peripatetic peregrinations

  1. sami k says:

    Ooh, that’s a good looking new library! Halifax looks lovely – I’m rather jealous you got to visit!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s