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Bookworms Rejoice – The Best Libraries in Australia

Architecture

In the book Public Library, Ali Smith writes, ‘It doesn’t have to be educational. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you were doing. Young or old. Rich or homeless. It doesn’t matter. You just go there’. These ‘palaces for the people’ are civic sites where everyone is welcome.

Take a tour of eight of Australia’s most beautiful libraries, where you can take refuge with a book, and just take shelter on a rainy day and enjoy the community space.

8th April, 2019

The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre (GLHC). Photo – John Gollings.

Landscaped terrace spaces play on the glass façade system. Here, the collaboration with landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean is working at its best. Photo – John Gollings.

The library’s award-wining interiors. Photo – Emma Cross.

Comparison have been made between GLHC and the spherical ‘Death Star’ from Star Wars! Photo – John Gollings.

Miriam McGarry
Monday 8th April 2019

Geelong Library And Heritage Centre

The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre by ARM Architecture has an arresting exterior – eight storeys of crystalline shards of glass and minimalist disco-ball curves! The building sits on the same site as the two-storey library it has replaced, but ARM has re-visioned the library identity to serve the current and future needs of Geelong inhabitants. The sweeping dome takes direction from the historic dome of the State Library of Victoria (see below in this post!), with a contemporary and high-tech spin.

Geelong Library and Heritage Centre
51 Little Malop Street
Geelong, Victoria

Multi-levels of books at the Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre. Photo – Christian Mushenko.

This building re-purposed materials from the pre-existing town hall to make a modern and fresh design.  Photo – Christian Mushenko.

The arresting facade of the Bankstown Library. Photo – Christian Mushenko.

Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre

The Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre (BLaKC) by fjmt is located on the renovated site of the pre-exisiting Bankstown Town Hall. The architects worked to salvage the high quality timber, pre-cast concrete, aluminium and stainless steel of the original hall, and repurposed them into a new state-of-the-art community centre. The library wing runs across three levels, and sits alongside a landscaped public area. Grab a book, and enjoy the view!

Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre
80 Rickard Road
Bankstown, New South Wales

The sweeping exterior form of the Cobram Library is inspired by the nearby Murray River. Photo – Tom Blachford.

A timber spine runs through the building and directs visitors through the space. Photo – Tom Blachford.

The Cobram Library by Cohen Leigh architects. Photo – Tom Blachford.

Cobram Library And Learning Centre

The Cobram Library by CohenLeigh Architects in Victoria is directly informed by the location and community in which it sits. The architects worked with local community stakeholders to develop a design that echoes the form of the local Murray River in the external timber battened screen. This curtaining element casts shifting shadows into the library space. A central pathway runs through the library, and the wooden panel ceiling spine connects the private reading and communal working zones. A new technology area has been introduced alongside library, reading, and community spaces, to reflect the needs and interests of the Cobram residents. There is something SO elegantly Australian about this library, where the curves of the Murray River welcome readers into the community focused civic space.

Cobram Library and Learning Centre
14 Punt Road
Cobram, Victoria

Yes, that is a hanging garden inside a library! Welcome to Woollahra.  Photo –Brett Boardman (left) and John Gollings(right).

The Woollahra Library by BVN brings nature and books together! Photo – John Gollings.

Woollahra Library

The Woollahra Library by BVN is the library that prompted this round up, after Lucy joined Sydney stylist Megan Morton in one of the library’s meeting rooms for a podcast recording! Tucked into the Blackburn Gardens and overlooking Double Bay, the Woollahra Library brings the surrounding nature into the bookish space. Organic shapes and hanging gardens create an inviting and calming environment, and since the library has been updated, over 4000 new members have joined, and daily visitation has jumped from 400 to 2500.

In addition to stunning silent zones and reading nooks, The Woollahra library also features an Automated Returns Room where you can watch books being automatically sorted (so soothing!), and a secret doorway halfway up the timber stair that opens onto a curving slippery dip, delivering kids to a cosy reading corner!

Woollahra Library
536 New South Head Road
Double Bay, New South Wales

The fragmented canopy of the Monash University Caufield Library, by John Wardle Architects. Photo – Dianna Snape.

Fancy studying in your own wooden cube? Photo – Dianna Snape.

A central atrium brings light into the renovated brutalist building. Photo – Dianna Snape.

Caulfield Library

The Caufield Library at Monash University, Caufield by John Wardle Architects transforms a brutalist brick and concrete library into a light filled and inviting space for students. The original 1970 building has been reoriented to welcome students into the space, and opened up to reveal the structure and frame. A central atrium draws light into the depths of the library, and seating capacity has been increased from 746 to 1572, with plenty of power points to charge dwindling laptops!

The external renovations are equally striking, as a glass, steel and mesh canopy provides a ‘shade house’ and transitions between the outside and inside. Unsurprisingly, this library won the Australian Library and Information Association Academic Library Design Award, 2019 – university life never seemed so appealing!

Caufield Library
Dandenong Road, Monash Univeristy
Caufield, Victoria

Bunjil Place by fjmt. Photo – Glenn Hester.

The sweeping and organic interior forms. Photo – John Gollings (left) and Trevor Mein (right).

Welcome to Bunjil Place Library. Photo – John Gollings.

A dramatic staircase ushers visitors upstairs. Photo –  Trevor Mein

Bunjil Place Library

The Bunjil Place Library by fjmt studio draws on Indigenous Boon Wurrung themes of the ‘meeting of many paths’ to create a sinuous design scheme of flowing organic forms. The ground floor of the library acts as an extension of the community foyer, as an invitation to all. High ceilings and mezzanine floors provide a sense of civic grandeur, while dedicated kids and youth areas, gaming suites, and collaborative areas make it a welcoming library for everyone to enjoy.

Bunjil Place
2 Patrick NE Drive
Narre Warren, Victoria

Transparency and connection were the underlying principles in the design of the Surry Hills Library by fjmt. Photo – Courtesy of Surry Hills Library.

The renovation of the Surry Hills Library included significant landscaping of surrounding public space. Photo – Courtesy of Surry Hills Library.

Stunning staircases in Surry Hills. Photo – Courtesy of Surry Hills Library.

Surry Hills Library

Yes, this is the third library by fjmt on our list – they are clearly Australia’s library whisperers! The Surry Hills site incorporates a library, resource centre, community and child centre, with a public park and raised grass platform. The library encompasses the ground and lower floor, with open views out to the surrounding landscaped play areas. The tapered glass atrium creates a transparent prism, with the intention that this openness will encourage participation. The library balances monumentality with community engagement – a truly civic building!

Surry Hills Library
405 Crown Street
Surry Hills, New South Wales

The State Library of Victoria, a longstanding civic institution! Photo – Courtesy of State Library Victoria.

 

The Dome Room. Photo – Courtesy of State Library Victoria.

 

Updating the oldest library in Australia. Photo – Courtesy of State Library Victoria.

 

State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria is the kind of library your brain conjures when you think of a library! It is a large traditional civic institution, that is equally imposing and inspiring. The library is currently undergoing a massive renovation for the 2020 Vision  designed by Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects – but before this transformation is complete, there is plenty of celebrating in the history of this iconic Melbourne space.

Designed by Joseph Reed, the library opened its doors to the public in 1856 with free admission to anyone over 14 years of age with clean hands! It is the oldest and busiest public library in Australia, and is now home to over 5.1 million items. Over 5000 people visit the SLV a day, and for anyone who has ever spent time traipsing around during SWOTVAC looking for a seat – the new renovation will see public space increase by 40% and seating by 70%. Until then, the Dome Room is hard to beat for a work location, so get there early to secure a spot.

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne, Victoria

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