John P. Robarts Research Library

Both a node and a landmark (using Kevin Lynch’s terms), John P. Robarts Research Library (or Robarts Library), commonly known as the Fort Book, is one of, if not the most striking image of the University of Toronto. It functions as an integral node to the University of Toronto. Outlining its significance, Gretton indicates that it would be “serving a campus community the size of a Canadian town” (28). Furthermore, he describes it as a “central storage for man’s recorded thoughts and inspiration” (28). The University of Toronto’s Robarts Library is easily one of North America’s largest and top university research libraries, with over nine million volumes and a gross building area of 1,035,928 square feet. Each side of the equilateral triangle has a length of 330 feet — the span of a Canadian football field from goal post to goal post. It connects the Claude Biselle Faculty of Information Studies on the north to the Fisher Rare Book Library to the south. With its monolithic size and imposing orientation relative to the street grid, it also serves as a landmark of the campus. Lobsinger identified the plan to resemble a maple leaf, whereas the building profile, when viewed from the southeast, could be said to resemble a peacock (164). This profile can be seen from a distance along Hoskin Avenue approaching from the east, and along St. George Street when approaching from the south. The enormous library can be seen towering over the campus from afar when approaching from all directions. Quoting Sir Oliver Frank, “it emerged as an immense monument to modern man’s subservience to academic ego” (Gretton, 28). Perhaps it is indicative of its clients’ objective, as well as the architectural style of the epoch that it originally belongs to—a fortification of knowledge in a brutal (not Brutalist) kind of way.


Works Cited:

Gretton, Robert. “John P. Robarts Research Library, University of Toronto.” Canadian Architect. v.19, n.8. Don Mill, Ont.: Hugh C. Maclean Publications, Ltd. 1974: 28-33

Lobsinger, Mary Lou. “John P. Robarts Library.” Concrete Toronto: A Guide to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies. Ed. Michael McClelland, Graeme Stewart. Toronto, Ont.: Coach House Books. 2007: 164-173

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