Robarts Common

Robarts Common reinvents the function of an academic library for the 21st Century by focussing on gathering and study environments for the support of student life. The building introduces 1200 study spaces over 4 floors in a range of configurations: spacious communal tables in reading rooms; group study rooms with glass walls and media connectivity; private carrels in wooden enclosures overlooking the campus, and an informal amphitheatre overlooking the University of Toronto campus. Its facetted five-storey glass façade spans the length of the building to ensure natural light enters all corners of the interior to support the character of the study environments inside.

The Common is the first major addition to Robarts Library complex, University of Toronto’s preeminent academic research library. The original 1960’s design included a large primary building surrounded by a complex of smaller pavilions; the west side of the library was intended to have an auditorium above a loading dock serving the Robarts community. Finally, nearly fifty years later, Diamond Schmitt Architects has realized the third pavilion as Robarts Common, a translucent counter point to the immense character and concrete and darkness of its brutalist neighbours: Robarts Library at the east, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at the southeast, and the Claude Bissell Building (faculty of Information iSchool) at the northeast.

The new addition, connecting to Robarts Library through a narrow bridge on the upper floors of the building, is constructed as a steel gambrel truss with diagonal braces. The Robarts Common is essentially an immense tabletop building straddling an active shipping and receiving facility which has remained functional during construction. The steel legs of Robarts Common touch down on either side of the loading dock with columns containing mechanical space to the north and a new entrance lobby located at the south corner. The more accessible south entrance and plaza improves circulation through the building and also establishes an alternate entry point to the long-standing St. George Street entrance.

When the new Robarts Common opens in the 2021-2022 academic year, the library’s 18,000 daily users will quickly see and feel that the million square feet of the entire library complex are more social, collaborative and human.

Client University of Toronto
Completion 2021


Photogaphy Joy von Tiedemann


Team See full project team
Dami Akinbode
Derek Bonnett
Karel Brozik
Liviu Budur
Aaron Costain
Cecily Eckhardt
Ashley Fava
Dan Gallivan
Martin Gauthier
Jim Graves
Mahdie Irannejad
Steven Ischkin
Justin Kennedy
Waleed Khan
Martin Kristensen
Charmaine Lazaga
Danielle Maddock
Gary McCluskie
Maya Orzechowska
Ewa Rudzik
Jessica Shifman
Stephanie Town
Joseph Troppmann
Gary Watson