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University of Toronto - Gerstein Reading Room


Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects

The Gerstein Reading Room is part of the Information Centre which is the largest Sciences and Health Science Academic library in Canada. The Gerstein Reading Room has been restored to its original 1892 state as part of the renovations for a spacious student study area.

Simplicity was the approach taken for the systems in the ceiling to avoid competition with the intricate neo-gothic trusses. The exquisite hand carved wooden trusses and dramatic glass skylight that had been hidden beneath a dropped ceiling in the Reading Room for almost a century required careful consideration. The history of the building required respect, and the horseshoe shape provided further challenges. Smith + Andersen also provided mechanical services for the Information Centre.

S + A Services Included:


The mechanical systems were replaced and upgraded. The duct was suspended from the ceiling away from the newly exposed skylight to avoid shadowing from daylight. Vents were located away from suspended luminaires to prevent their movement from air flow. The second phase entailed architectural revitalization of the main entrance to the library and the main floor library space. This improvement includes the changes to the mechanical systems to suit the new architectural design.


Wooden floor joists in the Heritage Reading Room required careful consideration for routing conduits. Flush floor outlets were coordinated with the study carrel table leg locations to allow feeders to run through the legs to power, communications and lighting located on the study carrels.


In the Heritage Reading Room, opal acrylic pendants (with etched diffusers to conceal lamp imaging) are suspended from the ceiling from aircraft wire hangers to provide ambient lighting while softly illuminating the ceiling structure. At the perimeter of the room, an architectural valance conceals LEDs on 2" centres to graze the curved wall above and below the valence, as well as illuminating the perimeter bookcases. Natural lighting from the skylight and high windows is harvested through the use of daylight sensors. Identical smaller scale luminaires are suspended from the lower ceiling adjacent to the reading room, and in the meeting room.


Toronto, Ontario

Gross Floor Area

  • 4,300 sq ft

Total Construction Cost

$ 933,000

Completion Year



2009 William Greer Prize for Renovation Excellence, Heritage Toronto - Honorable Mention

2009 IES Illumination - International Award of Merit and Toronto Section Award - Reading Room Lighting Design