With the Canadian Centennial approaching in 1967, the Government of Canada launched an ambitious program to build national identity and enrich public life through new facilities for the arts, culture, recreation and education. Led by the federal Centennial Commission, in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, the resulting Centennial projects ranged from large-scale institutions such as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto to literally hundreds of libraries, recreation centres and performing-arts venues in communities across the country.
Taking advantage of this funding largesse, the Town of Mimico (soon to be amalgamated into the Borough of Etobicoke) opted to commission a new central library to replace their aging 1915 Carnegie building. The Mimico Centennial Library, opened in late 1966 at 47 Station Road, earned architects Banz, Brook, Carruthers, Grierson, Shaw a coveted Massey Medal for Architecture in 1967.
Set into a compact, sloping site, the Mimico library takes on an irregular L shape, wrapped around a charmingly cobblestoned garden court by landscape architect Michael Hough and a butterfly fountain sculpture by Ron Baird. The sculptural plasticity of Brutalism is evident in the building’s angular, abstract shapes and free-form projections, but the style’s sometimes overbearing effect is tempered by its realization in a refined red-orange brick rather than raw concrete. A roof of greenish weathered copper attractively caps the composition. The lush, mature landscaping and the deft handling of scale, mass and siting further help to integrate the library into its otherwise unassuming residential neighbourhood.
Inside, a central checkout desk divides the children’s wing from the main library. The children’s wing overlooks the entrance garden court through a floor-to-ceiling glass box, which extends from the building to form a daydreamy reading nook and observation post. The main library area is on two levels, with bookstacks tucked underneath an open mezzanine level above. Open and airy, the space is daylit from all sides by strategically-placed slit windows; natural cedar ceilings contrast the smooth white plaster walls and the elegant roof structure of black steel. The main floor extends into a second projecting volume, also overlooking the entrance garden, that houses a reading lounge convivially arranged around a large circular coffee table. On the lowest level is a 240-seat sloped-floor auditorium for public events and performances.
Toronto-based Banz, Brook, Carruthers, Grierson, Shaw (and its various iterations) was for many years a specialist in public libraries and other community facilities. The Mimico library can be considered a stylistic midway point in the firm’s evolution from the simple c.1960 brick-and-glass pavilions for the Richmond Hill and Port Credit libraries toward the larger, more complex and more uncompromisingly Brutalist 1970s Burlington Public Library and North York Fairview Branch Library. The firm continues today as CS&P Architects.