E.J. Pratt Library

71 Queen’s Park Cres. East, Toronto, ON.

Located on Queen’s Park Circle at the southern end of the Victoria University campus, the E.J. Pratt Library is an elegant stone container “floating” at the edge of the collegiate quadrangle.  With its taut, four-storey volume, crisp rectilinear geometry and smooth planes of ashlar, it provides an understated counterpoint to the exuberant Richardsonian Romanesque “Old Vic” (W.G. Storm, 1895)

Originally the Victoria University Library, it was renamed just eight years after opening to commemorate E.J. (Edwin John) Pratt (1882-1964), a celebrated Canadian poet and professor of English literature at Victoria University.  The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated Pratt as a Person of National Historic Significance in 1975.

The library is three storeys plus a basement, subtly negotiating the slope from north to south.  With Northrop Frye Hall (Adamson & Associates, 1967) to the west, the library shares a series of terraces and steps that ascend gently northward to the monumental entrance of the historic college building.  The library is both an object in the landscape, yet part of the collegiate quadrangle.

A two-storey, stone-clad volume dominates the form of the library.  Beneath this volume, the lowest level of the building is exposed at the west, south, and east, and abundant glazing provides a transparent relationship with the adjacent green spaces.  Above, the third level is set back from the parapet and capped with a projecting flat roof.  The building is a sophisticated balance between monolithic, solid qualities and those of luminosity and transparence.

The interior is characterized by a double-height reading room at the heart of the building.

While diminutive in scale, compared to other buildings by Gordon S. Adamson & Associates, the E.J. Pratt Library is nonetheless a significant work.  The library garnered the 25 Year Award from the Ontario Association of Architects in 1996.

In 2001, the building underwent a major rehabilitation by Kohn & Schnier Architects with Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners, which garnered an Ontario Library Association Award of Excellence.

To the east of the library, the Lester B. Pearson Garden for Peace and Understanding, by landscape architect Paul Ehnes, PMA Landscape Architects Inc., garnered a Canadian Society of Landscape Architects Award of Excellence in 2004.

The E.J. Pratt Library continues be a much-used library by students and academics, and it makes a significant contribution to the cultural heritage landscape of the University of Toronto.