Queen's University Library

In 1990, Moshe Safdie participated in a limited design competition for a new library at Queen's University in downtown Kingston, Ontario. The University wanted the new library to become a landmark symbolizing permanence and continuity in built form. The initial design question considered by Safdie was how to address the paradox inherent in large libraries which must house vast collections while also providing intimate spaces for study and thought. The solution proposed was to position a large five-storey structure containing book stacks at the centre of the scheme, and to surround this structure with a series of smaller spaces, known as "houses", for study, carrels, seminar rooms, offices, and special collections. Framing the book stacks were daylit galleries, known as "streets", that helped to direct movement within the stacks and lead to the intimate study areas at the periphery. For a clear and simple orientation, the levels of open stacks organized along an axis were visible to the visitor upon entering the building; from the arcades that connect each floor of stacks and the "houses", visitors could see across the galleries into the stacks.

Moshe Safdie did not win the final competition. However, an informal survey of the general public and the students revealed that Safdie's design and the winning competition project by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg were the "favourites" among the five finalists.