The Stanley A. Milner Library Renewal by Teeple Architects in association with Stantec reimagines the existing Edmonton Public Library (EPL) main branch as an innovative and welcoming civic hub. The renovation and expansion of the 1967 building actively supports the library’s position as a social and creative destination, embodying EPL’s values of openness and inclusion while reflecting its prominent downtown location on Sir Winston Churchill Square.
The library originally opened as Edmonton’s Centennial Library, and in 1999 was expanded with an 11,000 sq ft addition that reduced the space in front of the building to a narrow strip of sidewalk. There were also no significant views into the library’s activities. Visitors entering the building were greeted by dimly lit, low-ceilinged spaces that discouraged exploration.
Aiming to bring the Milner building and its services into the 21st century and better support EPL’s mandate, the renewal project initially involved replacing its exterior precast panels with a new energy efficient building envelope, upgrading several aging building systems, activating the civic space around the building, and creating a new architectural identity to foster greater community engagement. After extensive collaboration with EPL and the City of Edmonton, the project was expanded to include a comprehensive interior renovation.
The new building envelope is composed of durable, high-performance zinc with generous expanses of glazing. Its dynamic form was conceived to relate directly to its urban context—literally stretching out and opening up toward nearby landmarks. The building’s skin in turn shapes a network of intuitive circulation paths and inspiring new spaces.
Key moments of transparency, coloured skylights, glazing panels and EPL signage, combined with a new plaza with clear views into the library’s programming, invite the public inside. Whereas the old building felt cut-off from the city, the new library is a welcoming portal between Sir Winston Churchill Square to the north and Centennial Square to the south.
The reshaped library’s interior reflects and supports modern library service delivery, in which EPL has been a leader, bringing greater focus to community-building and engagement, social responsibility, and access to technology, in addition to “traditional” library uses. Visitors now enter into a bright six-storey atrium defined by a sweeping new “reading ramp” and a two-storey interactive display wall. Basement lobby space for the building’s theatre and event rooms is now visible through voids in the floor, increasing the sense of welcome and interconnection. From the entry, visitors are led on an intuitive path towards new amenities including large galleria spaces, a café, a multi-functional children’s library, makerspaces, gaming space, teaching kitchen, meeting spaces and administrative offices. The spiritual heart of the building is the PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House), an Indigenous gathering and smudging space designed in consultation with local Cree Elders and their communities.
Among many striking spatial experiences in the re-imagined building, at the top of the ramp there is a moment to appreciate the full volume of the atrium. The façade of the former library, still visible, is adorned with Alberta artist Peter Von Tiesenhausen’s piece, “Things I Knew to Be True”. Overhead are leaf-like coloured glass skylights in EPL colours atop the tree-like V-columns that support the innovative façade and roof structure of the atrium. As users navigate around the library, they are offered a variety of spaces to read and connect with one another, while taking in views of the city.