Reviving the Heart of a City: Hamilton Public Library & Farmers’ Market

In association with RDH Architects, the renovation of the Hamilton Public Library and Farmer’s Market was conceived as a design-driven opportunity to spur sustained urban renewal. A 96-meter long, continuous glass vestibule with LED lighting re-establishes the building’s relationship to York Street, while the interior executions are geared around elevating the library’s functionality to modern European standards. An emphasis on transparent materials facilitates a conversation between the library and adjacent market, which received a series of service upgrades.

The Hamilton Public Library + Farmers’ Market are two of the City’s most important public institutions.  Since 1980, they have shared the same building, but have been awkwardly disconnected from one another and from York Boulevard. The recent renovation and expansion rebrands both institutions through reconnection with the street, connection between the Library and Market, enhanced functionality, and improved circulation and accessibility.

The ground floor of the library was completely renovated, and an addition provided space for the introduction of an information commons. Remodeled children’s areas with aquaria, a new reading room with fireplace, and a green wall are amongst the new programmatic elements. The design facilitates the introduction of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology into the library, transforming the traditional service delivery model into a contemporary merchandising approach.

The renovated Farmers’ Market includes a new community kitchen, a public seating area, and a street level café and special events space that can be opened to the sidewalk. The historic “Birk’s Clock” has been restored and centrally located in the Market.

One of most significant aspects of the design as a whole is the addition of more than 6000 square feet of street level vestibule space along the length of the building. This provides a transitional experience for visitors, and accommodates display space, a green wall, a café, public seating, and special events space. In addition, it allows for a physical connection between the library and café space in the market. The vestibule is entirely glazed on both sides, exposing the activity inside to the street and vice versa.  The glazed facade includes colour changing LED lights, further reinforcing the new connections.



  • 2014 International Architecture Award – The Chicago Athenaeum of Architecture and Design
  • 2012 Best Institutional Interior – Canadian Interiors Magazine “Best in Canada”
  • 2012 Ontario Library Association Award of Excellence
  • 2012 Ontario Association of Architects Award of Excellence

Project Details

Location: 55 York Blvd, Hamilton ON, Canada

Client: City of Hamilton

Status: Complete

Budget: $14 Million

Year: 2011

“David Premi and his team saw the building’s potential, which we didn’t. I have worked with many architects on many projects; this project was the first time I found myself letting go, confident that our hopes and visions for the building were being heard and were being translated into a workable plan combined with an amazing AWE factor. The result is a remarkable, iconic building that the public has embraced as their own. Use of the building skyrocketed and has remained high ever since the transformation performed by David and his team.” - Ken Roberts, Former Chief Librarian, Hamilton Public Library