interior of the John Muir LibraryDesign of the John Muir Library has won an award for conservation architecture from the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals for architect Jason Grossi.

National heritage association praises library architecture

UWindsor professor Jason Grossi has received further praise for his design of the John Muir Branch of the Windsor Public Library, winner of a 2021 Award of Excellence for Conservation – Architecture from the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP).

Prof. Grossi, co-ordinator of the Visual Art and the Built Environment architecture program, is the architect of record for this City of Windsor project.

Awards in architecture differ from ones like the Oscars, Grammys, or Junos, says Grossi. Noting that awards celebrating accomplishments in the built environment are given by differing organizations for specific purposes, he has generally been reluctant to submit work for consideration.

“But for this latest work, the John Muir Branch of the Windsor Public Library, submitting to these well-known awards was for different reasons,” explains Grossi. “And this lends itself to some points about why the creation of work in the built environment is a tad different than composing a symphony, making a piece of sculpture or a painting, yet still in the realm of visual art.”

Buildings have obligations to the urban context, functional demands, and their inhabitants, which must go beyond their artistic critical values, he says.

“They must consider their environmental impacts, their respect for our historical built heritage — as was a major component of this project — constraints of budget, responses to the landscape and climate,” says Grossi.

Visual dynamism and form driven projects are often magnets for juries, but as time reveals, often prove incongruous with functions or urban contextual relationships.

“While the creation of the John Muir library project happened inside my head, on the drafting table and in study models, similar to any art creation, once it became realized in the built environment, that one-to-one relationship vanished,” he says. “Being a significant civic building, it now belongs to all of us; seeking recognition is significant for less hedonistic reasons.

“It’s all about letting everyone know how our city respects its historic urban neighbourhoods, reverence for our historic inventory, and how we foster innovation to advance the library typology yet remain a community living room or ports-of-call for newcomers.”

The John Muir Branch has been honoured with several awards, all for different achievements: its design, its successful functional innovations from the Ontario Library Association, its impact in the community, and now for its architectural response to preserving, restoration, and careful rehabilitation treatment.

“I may be the architect and heritage consultant, but the awards go to all of us,” says Grossi.

CAHP will formally acknowledge all the award recipients during its virtual annual general meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26.