While renovations continue at the D.B. Weldon Library, 2023 was a banner year for the iconic building on the Western campus.
In December, Weldon was named “Best of Year” in the “library” category by Interior Design Magazine, an international magazine published from the U.S. The award recognizes the most impactful contributions to design from around the world. Among the projects evaluated in this category were public libraries in New York and San Francisco, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.
The International Interior Design Association awarded Weldon a Global Excellence Award in the “Education” category. The awards honour “excellence in originality and creativity in international interior design and interior architecture projects”.
The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario also recognized Weldon with an ARIDO Award in the “Learn” category which recognizes the most vibrant, innovative and inspiring educational spaces by registered interior designers.
Western is partnering with architects Perkins & Will on the renovation.
“These are major international awards programs, receiving high-profile entries from around the world,” said Jon Loewen, associate principal for Perkins & Will.
“We’re excited to see Weldon and Western being recognized on the international stage and delighted to see a transformation project competing and winning against lots of new builds.”
The way forward: Maximize and modernize
Western Libraries and Perkins & Will are reimagining Weldon Library for the 21st century. The team is bringing to life the vision outlined in the 2017 Western Libraries Space Master Plan, by finding a balance between the original design and modern elements, to create a library for the future.
The $15-million first phase of the revitalization focused on several key areas including a new two-storey student learning commons and restructured staff spaces to maximize study space.
Originally designed in 1972 by renowned Australian architect John Andrews, Weldon stands out at Western for its distinct Brutalist architectural style. The Globe and Mail’s architecture columnist Dave Leblanc recently celebrated Weldon’s “brutalist beauty” and the achievements of the revitalization project.
“I am thrilled to see the interior design recognized in this way,” said Western’s vice-provost and chief librarian, Catherine Steeves. “Brutalist architecture is not very forgiving when it comes to renovation, and design becomes all the more important.”
“Perkins & Will have created – through their imaginative interventions and inspiring design elements – a new space that is light and welcoming, while at the same time, modern and minimalist,” she said.
Loewen says bringing new life into existing buildings like Weldon feels more important than ever, “for Western, for our shared architectural heritage, and for our low-carbon future.”
“It’s been a privilege to work on this special building, exploring creative ways to connect Western’s scholarly ambitions with the legacy of John Andrews’ original design,” he said.
Since phase 1 wrapped up, Western Libraries has welcomed thousands of visitors to Weldon.
According to Steeves, feedback from students, staff and faculty is overwhelmingly positive with some recent survey respondents calling it “spectacular”, “state-of-the-art” and “beautiful”.
What’s next for Weldon?
In April 2022, Western allocated an additional $15 million to fund the next phase of the Weldon revitalization project.
A highlight of phase 2 is a new silent study space in the student learning commons located at the base of the grand stairwell in what is now the Centre for Teaching and Learning.
“The new learning commons is so popular and busy that it can be hard for some students to focus, in the way they need to. Silent study space is a number one priority for students for the next phase and we are happy to make it happen,” said Steeves.
The space will be an enclosed area to eliminate outside noise. It will incorporate acoustic panels to help absorb sound, large windows to allow natural light to filter through, and a variety of seating options including study carrels for solo studying.
Phase 2 will also focus on a digital scholarship centre and graduate commons, including:
- A creation suite with digital equipment such as 3D scanners, printers and high-powered computing
- A media suite equipped with a green screen and video production equipment
- Presentation and digital display facilities
- A podcast room
- A primary source classroom
- Bookable meeting rooms
- Study spaces
- Exclusive spaces for graduate study and project work.
“The digital scholarship centre and graduate commons bring to life one of the central aims of our vision – the creation of a technology-rich research, teaching and learning environment in Weldon Library,” said Steeves.
“The space will provide a place for community, an active place for knowledge exchange and creation, collaboration, and presentation. If the vision is realized, it will become a vibrant hub of research and learning activity.”
As part of phase 2, Western Libraries content management, discovery and access staff currently located in Elborn College will join their colleagues in Weldon.
Phase 2 construction is underway and the new spaces are expected to be ready by January 2025.
Visit the Weldon Library renovation site for updates, to share your thoughts and to learn how you can support the revitalization.