Peach-coloured Gill letters read SHCHU and hover on top of a window The other day I was more or less in the neighbourhood of Eglinton and Dufferin and decided to visit the Maria A. Shchuka Library (MAS), a singed-looking cube of brick that’s supposed to be impressive. (Diamond & Schmitt was the architect.)

The building’s exterior – a terribly recherché riff on that Toronto cliché, buff brick – is now already a cliché. Half the architects’ houses in Toronto use sooty-black or dark-grey brick. These houses just end up looking pre-burned, as though they’d just recently survived a fire.

The branch, with its difficult-to-spell-and-pronounce name (Cyrillic Щ takes up four letters in English), has reasonable architectural usage of the TPL typeface, Gill Sans. The planter outside the branch is festooned with messages inscribed into the living brick.

But inside, there isn’t a lot of room, the second floor is awkwardly punched out by a half-assed atrium, it’s overly warm, and the view through the picture windows reveals nothing but the building’s hideous neighbours. Eight-foot-high doors lead to tiny washrooms – e.g., a men’s room with two stalls and a single sink with your choice of hot or scalding water. (When is TPL going to enter the 21st century and install Dyson Airblades in its washrooms? They’re the only hand dryers that work. They’re good enough for Robarts Library.)

The old guy at the second-floor desk was too involved with his Facebook or whatever to bother jotting down a note for Facilities when I mentioned it to him. And he essentially told me I must be mistaken and must have been too stupid to use the cold-water tap (the one that actually emits hot water). I then had to play the engineer card. Downstairs they told me I had to complain upstairs, and insinuated if the old guy had told me there was nothing wrong then there really isn’t anything wrong and what the hell is my problem? Oh, and I owe $2.10 in fines.

It would be facile to dismiss this quite new, yet unwelcoming and decaying branch, as just plain ugly. (Its neighbourhood sure is.) They’ve gone to great lengths to slap a very artistique and moderne patina onto the building to stop you from doing that. (“This place can’t be second-rate – look at that architectural excellence!”) At least Northern District and St. Lawrence don’t bother pretending they aren’t ugly. At the branches everyone admits are ugly I don’t get library staff telling me I must be too stupid to use a tap.

As I believe the kids no longer say anymore, FAIL.