Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Canada Water Library: The library as urban developer


Canada Water Library contributes to developing and bringing together the district of Southwark. The library is well-attended which, among other things, is due to an improved infrastructure in the area and an attractive view over Canada Water Bassin. Furthermore the library invites to linger, absorption and learning.


Canada Water Library opened in 2011 and is located in the district of Southwark in the southern part of London. The library is part of a greater urban renewal taking place in the area and a new city centre is under construction. The library and a plaza are part of this development. The urban renewal takes place in several stages: at first a tube station was built, later the plaza and library were established and the area is still undergoing the last stage of the development which involves residential housing. Canada Water Library is facing the historic Canada Water Bassin in an area that was earlier characterized by docks and wharfs. Today the waters have been turned into a pond with birdlife and tranquility. 


The library is literally located on top of the tube and overground station Canada Water, which is a junction in the district. Thus, the library is easily accessible and the staff of the library often experience that the visitors not only come from the neighbouring areas but from several other parts of London.  In a way the library helps to connect the area and along with the plaza and the rest of the city centre it functions as a landmark in the area of Canada Water. 

Culture Café and Culture Space

Apart from the service area a café, the Culture Café, is located on the ground floor and when users enter the library from the waterfront the café is the first thing that meets them. From the seating in the café you can overlook Canada Water Bassin and the café functions as a welcoming arrival that attracts users and invites them to stay longer.  

Culture Café

On the ground floor Canada Culture Space is located as well. The Culture Space is a smaller theatre with room for 150 people and it cooperates with the café whenever activities and performances take place. The Culture Space holds events like theatrical and dance performances, concerts and children’s activities.

Culture Space. Michael Camberon Photography.

Oblique angles inside and outside

The library building is shaped as a hexagon covered with bronze ant the architects have intentionally shaped the library as an inverted “pyramid” to ensure a smaller ground area. This way the public plaza can obtain a larger area and at the same time the smaller ground area ensures a great view to Canada Water Bassin. 

The shape of the building creates oblique angels and sloping walls inside the library which create a vivid atmosphere. A large helical staircase is situated at the heart of the library that connects the ground floor with the upper levels where you find the library’s collection of different types of materials like books, music and movies. You also find the children’s’ library, reading and working spaces and meeting rooms. The meeting rooms and a large number of the reading and working spaces are situated next to the large windows so the users can enjoy the view of Canada Water Bassin and the London skyline. 

Michael Camberon Photography.


Sustainability has been essential from the beginning when the library was built. Among other things the library has a green sedum roof which is closed for the public to protect the micro fauna and birdlife in the area. The library also has grey water harvesting and a ground source heat pump. At the same time the architecture and design of the library contribute to natural well-lit spaces that reduce the power consumption.                 

18. Sep 2017 at. 14:01

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