The State Library of Victoria (SLV) has unveiled the designs of its $88.1-million redevelopment designed by Australian practice Architectus and Danish practice Schmidt Hammer Lassen.
The redevelopment, titled Vision 2020, will see the library increase its publicly accessible spaces by 40 percent. A core principle of Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s redesign will be to celebrate the library’s heritage aspects.
A key project of Vision 2020 will be the refurbishment of the historic Queen’s Reading Room (as it was originally known). Opened in 1856, it is the library’s oldest reading room. The refurbishment will strip back paint to reveal the decorative colour scheme designed in 1860 by architect Joseph Reed and Edward La Trobe Bateman, which took inspiration from Owen Jones’s The Grammar of Ornament. It will also reveal the original skylights of the reading room, which were covered during a 1970s renovation.
The Queen’s Reading Room has been closed to the public since 2003. After its refurbishment, it will reopen as the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, which will be used as reading room during the day and a space for special events at night.
A new children’s quarter will be created to accommodate the growing numbers of children and families visiting the library. Co-designed with students from schools around Melbourne, the space will resemble a storybook treehouse or castle and feature reading nooks, a storytelling area and even a running track.
John Sprunt, principal of Architectus, said through the co-design process “we learnt that children wanted a range of spaces, from reading nooks to places where they could run around, be a bit noisy and burn off energy. It was one of the defining aspects of the project and heavily influenced the conception and design of the Children’s Quarter.”
The redevelopment will also include three new reading rooms, a new exhibition space to be named the Victoria Gallery and a new function room to be named the Isabella Fraser Room, after the SLV’s first female employee.
The Russell Street entrance, on the north side of the library, will be restored and reopened after 15 years and a new universal access entrance will be created on La Trobe Street.
“The designs strike a beautiful balance between restoring and celebrating the heritage of this wonderful institution and responding to the changing and varied needs of our visitors,” said Kate Torney, CEO of the SLV.
The project is the second collaboration between Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The practices were commissioned to design the new Christchurch City Library in New Zealand, after the former library was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake.
“Schmidt Hammer Lassen have designed many of the leading 21st century libraries [around the world], they’re deeply [familiar with] what a 21st century library means to a city,” Ruth Wilson, a director of Architectus, told ArchitectureAU. “What Architectus brings is we have a deep tradition in learning and teaching so the education and the local context, of course.”
The design of the redevelopment will also establish a unifying language, “a design line” as Architectus calls it, which will inform the palette and aesthetic not just for the Vision 2020 project, but for the future evolution of the library as well.
“We recognize that we’re just one part of this incredible lineage but we’re setting it up for the future as well,” Wilson said.
Construction on the redevelopment will commence in July 2017 and is due to be completed by 2020.
Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen won a competitive tender for the project in April 2016. The other shortlisted consortia were ARM Architecture, supported by Bryce Raworth Heritage Architects, Bonacci Group and Norman Disney and Young Engineers; Conrad Gargett and Lyons Architecture, supported by Bonacci Group and Norman Disney and Young Engineers; and Hassell, supported by Purcell Heritage Architects and AECOM Engineers.