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State Library Victoria

Melbourne/ Australia

Size/ 13,532 m²
Cost/ AUD $88.1 million redevelopment plan
Competition/ 2016, winner of tender, international competition
Status/ Construction starts in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2020
Client/ Major Projects Victoria (MPV)/ State Library Victoria (SLV)
Architects/ Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects/ Architectus/ Andronas Conservation Architects
Engineers/ Irwin Consult/ Steensen Varming/ Arup
Other consultants/ ID Lab/ McKenzie Group/ Salus
Photo/ Trevor Mein

State Library Victoria, Australia’s oldest and largest public library is undergoing a major redevelopment as part of Vision 2020, an ambitious AU$88.1 million transformation that will increase public space by 40 percent. The five-year redevelopment plan is aimed at expanding the library’s community outreach and enhancing the visitor experience among other goals. The library comprises 23 individual buildings and occupies an entire city block in Melbourne’s city centre.

As the busiest public library in Australia, attracting 1.8 million visitors and 3.3 million online users each year, State Library Victoria is a rich and celebrated cultural institution in Melbourne, a space that reaches out to a broad range of users.

During the design process, a series of co-creation workshops where held to engage the users directly in the library’s redevelopment. Input and feedback from children, teens and their families have helped the design team to understand the future user needs. That valuable feedback will translate into the creation of their dream library.

The architectural design concept puts users at the centre, providing an open, accessible, and welcoming experience for all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Before the redevelopment, the layout of the 164-year-old library drew visitors through a sequence of spaces that made it easy to leave the building without being fully aware of the library’s diverse offering. The design concept creates a more holistic experience with a clear hierarchy of thresholds and spaces, connecting the various zones of the library physically and visually.

In 2018, phase one of the development project was completed. Formerly housing the Melbourne Museum from 1906 to 1997 and the National Gallery of Victoria from 1999 to 2002, the redeveloped sites are now serviced by two new additional entrances – a universally accessible entrance on La Trobe Street, and the historic Russell Street entrance that was closed for more than a decade.

Just inside the new Russell Street entrance is the new Baldwin Spencer Hall, a warm, welcoming space that anchors the library on an urban scale.

Baldwin Spencer Hall now houses a lounge and meeting space called the Russell Street Welcome Zone, which includes the new Guild café, and the Readings bookshop that is relocated from the western end of the library.

Works from local visual artist Tai Snaith spans a 29-metre wall, and the grand space is grounded by restored original jarrah floors, a hardwood native to Australia.

Moving further into the library, the redeveloped McArthur and Swinburne Galleries house reading rooms designated as quiet space for reading and research. State-of-the-art audio-visual technology and a new production kitchen occupy the Isabella Fraser Room, a new special events venue named after the library’s first female employee.

The adjacent Victoria Gallery is a 500-square-metre exhibition space that will offer an immersive and interactive experience for visitors, when it opens in May 2019.

Throughout State Library Victoria, all furniture, fittings and equipment were carefully selected and designed to complement the architectural interventions. This includes moveable elements and fixed pieces that work together in aesthetic harmony, tying the project together.

Redevelopment of additional spaces throughout the library will open to the public in 2020.

New engaging spaces for children, families and youth will be created to nurture creative learning, literacy and play. New technology-enabled spaces for entrepreneurship and innovation will be created to support and stimulate the creative economy.

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