Halifax Central Library
Today’s libraries encourage community gathering. But balancing noisy groups with quiet reading takes ingenious acoustical design.
Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, 2016
Lieutenant Governor’s Design Award in Architecture, 2014
Modern libraries offer more than just books. They’re local hotspots for group interaction. And while they still hold story hour for neighborhood kids, they also host classical music concerts, community meetings and collaborative learning – sometimes all at once. This leads to some serious acoustical challenges.
Libraries used to be lined with sound-absorbing books, and patrons spoke in hushed tones. Now, they’re open gathering spaces with fewer books, and “inside voices” are a thing of the past.
Libraries are loaded with meaning – as civic architectural icons and symbols of local communities and their values. Halifax wanted a welcoming destination that’s accessible, flexible and sustainable. Adaptability was key to the project’s success, and that meant acoustically, too.
A central atrium demanded acoustical separation between floors. The multipurpose space needed dynamic room acoustics, without noise finding its way to quiet study areas. By focusing on these core issues early, we avoided complicated coordination at the end.
Our holistic approach involved organizing the space to flow from noisy/public to quiet/private. The multipurpose performance space got built-in flexibility, with operable partitions, retractable seating, and panels designed to control reverberation.
We carefully chose finishes to absorb sound. Rubber floors in main traffic areas reduce footfall noise. A ceiling of wood slats with rigid glass fiber above keeps both echoes and costs down. . Strategically placed wall materials, curtains on exterior glass and acoustically lined washroom entrances all help keep sounds in their proper places.
We also created physical separation where necessary. Small meeting pods and the recording studios feature STC-60 rated partitions and sound locks. Isolated mechanical rooms minimize HVAC noise, as do lined air returns near air handlers and low-sound VAV boxes.
The City Space (now Paul O’Regan Hall) was extremely impressive. It will perform just as envisaged. The acoustics were amazing! No amplification and the room was full of sound. A experienced musician said it was the best in the region and he was extremely complementary! Thanks for your contribution to a really wonderful project.
Completed in 2014, the LEED Gold-certified library is a centerpiece of Halifax’s Capital District. This five-story civic landmark offers 120,000 square feet of interconnected open spaces, private offices, meeting rooms, and a 200-seat theater that is praised as one of the best performance spaces in the region.
The city’s award-winning “living room” has contributed to a downtown revitalization and expanded cultural and learning activities. It’s been considered a great success by visitors and staff, the architectural community, musicians and – most importantly – the general public.