Bata Library

Trent University

ADDRESS Highway 28 North, Peterborough, ON., Canada
visual documentation
DEPICTED ITEM Bata Library, on the banks of the Otonobee River | Photograph, Chris Warden(source) | February 29, 2008 (date accessed)
1 identity of building, group of buildings, urban scheme, or landscape/garden
2 history of building

Original Brief/Purpose

University based on college system combining residential with academic buildings on a campus of 1400 acres, spanning the banks of the Otanabee River, Peterborough, Ontario.


other designer(s)

North Bridge:
Project Architects· Paul Merrick, D.M. Sai·Chew
Engineers· Structural, M.S. Yolles & Partners; Mechanical & Electrical, Crossey Langlois Firman
General Contractor· Varmae Construction

Champlain College:
Project Architects· R.J. Thom, P. Bernard
Engineers·Structural, M.S. Yolles & Partners; Mech. & Electrical, Crossey Langlois Firman
General Contractor- Foundation Company

Project Architects· P. Smith, D.M. Sai·Chew, P. Merrick
Engineers· Structural, M.S. Yolies & Partners; Mech. & Electrical, Crossey Langlois Firman
General Contractor· Eastern Construction Co.

Chemistry Building:
Project Architects· P. Merrick, D.M. Sai·Chew
Engineers·Structural, M.S. Yolles & Partners; Mech. & Electrical, Crossey Langlois Firman
General Contractor· Varmae Construction

Lady Eaton College:
Project Architects· A. Grant, D.M. Sal·Chew
Engineers·Structural, M.S. Yolles & Partners; Mech. & Electrical, Granek and Chisvin
General Contractor- Fuller Construction

significant alterations with dates

1992 Oct.: Environmental Science Centre Building - Architect, Richard Henriquez New building in the science complex.
1975: Otanabee Collega - Architect, Macy Dubois

current use Academic, residential, and administrative facilities
3 description

general description

Trent University was conceived as a college campus system, a form of university organization without precedence in Canada. Planning had to commence, therefore, at a very basic level and it took one year before any building design was considered. The development of the Master Plan was made by the simultaneous contributions and interactions of academic planning committees, structural engineers and architects. This process produced a circulatory system for people, goods and services• a system to which an infinite number of building developments could be added In the future. The full development plan consisted of: fourteen colleges, centralized science facilities, a main library, theatre, field house, commercial village and other required service buildings.

Trent University is located on a 1500•acre site, straddling the Otanabee River, about two and a half miles from Peterborough. Because the campus is largely composed of separate colleges with a broad body of water running through it, the idea of a "megastructure university" is inappropriate. It is conceived more like a "human path" or rout• ing project where inter-disciplinary buildings are connected by pedestrian sidewalks. The whole scheme forms a trio angle for movement flow, with two of the arms serving as foot-bridges across the river. This outlines the complex core and buildings clustered around the water's edge. The large central library and university court form one apex. In the triangular pedestrian scheme. Radiating eastward, across the Otanabee River, the second apex is formed by the Science Centre. South of this complex, the "village" area completes the scheme with the second bridge which connects the library and university court. The colleges would surround this core and were planned to be constructed over a period of twenty years. The original plan was never fully completed. The provincial government and the universally committee decided to reduce the size of the project and to specialize Trent University as a smaller liberal arts and science undergraduate Institution. Nevertheless, the library, the two colleges, the Chemistry Building and the bridge that were constructed give testimony to the quality of its design.

The plan of the library is essentially two squares superimposed on one another so that they form a star shape when viewed from above. In the centre is a large open stairway which is lit by an immense skylight. This permits natural light to enter the Inner confines of the building. On each floor level, surrounding glass walls keep out the noise while permitting light to enter. Each level of the library overlooks the tranquil river below. In the exterior, rubble aggregate concrete walls create a dramatic colour effect and integrate the complex with their surroundings.

Champlain College and Lady Eaton College were the first two colleges built. Both of them are linked to the University Court. Champlain College, the men's college, is structured like a minor path off the main walking network. The plan itself is divided Into four parts, comprising a dining hall and kitchen area, two residential units and a Master's house. While the communal areas have been designed as meeting places to encourage interchange among all members, the study-bedrooms are designed to allow privacy. Lady Eaton College, the women's college, is located east of the University Court. Basically triangular in plan, the college surrounds a large courtyard which gives access to the peripheral residential units. By the variation of forms and the play of light, the visual intensity of the mass in both complexes is reduced. The buildings are capable of blending in with their surroundings.

On the other side of the river, the first element of the Science complex to be built was the Chemistry building. Built on a series of levels, the Chemistry building allows for a variety of different visual perspectives. East of the Science complex, the Otonabee College was built years later by architect Macy Dubois. This was the last of the colleges to be built.

Nevertheless, the project in general exhibits a masterly understanding of scale and is a combination of environment and architecture. More than an "architectural style", it captures a spirit of repose in which aesthetic stimulation is combined with scholarly pursuits.

4 evaluation


- Masterplan design based on colleges, promoting an education at a more personal level, where mixed uses are unified by a circulatory network

cultural & aesthetic

-The unique aesthetic combines architecture, engineering and nature in a unified composition
-The landscape is a key element in organizing the campus plan, with buildings blending with the contour of the landscape
- A great sensitivity to light and shadow and scale
- Consistent design guidelines for many buildings built over different periods limited palette of materials to reinforced concrete, timber and rubble aggregate concrete


International College & University Conference & Exposition, Atlantic City, N.J., 1970: 4 Citations of Excellence in Architecture (4 buildings)
Toronto Chapter of OAA Annual Design Award, 1970: Thomas J. Bata Library
National Design Council Merit Award, 1971: Champlain College & Reginald Faryon Bridge
- Included in list of "significant architecture of last quarter century" Canadian Architect, Nov. 1980.

general assessment

- Major social achievement in the refiguring of the academic organization, In contrast to the centralized structures typical of Canadian universities

5 documentation

principal references

Original records found in tha Archives of the University of Calgary
Original drawings of R.J. Thom found in the archives of the University of Calgary
Aerial video report, University of Trent
"Ron Thom's Architecture for Trent University", Artscanada, June 1969
"Universities", Canadian Interiors, Maclean-Hunter Publication, Toronto, May 1972
"The Thom Partnership", Canadian Interiors, Maclean-Hunter PUblication, Toronto, May 1979
Architectural Record (USA)
Artscanada (Canada)
Baumeister (Germany)
Canadian Architect
Canadian Interiors
Time Magazine (USA)
Canadian Architecture 1960170. Carol Moore Ede, Burns & MacEarn Ltd., Toronto, 1971

rapporteur/date Fabiana Sinbrich
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