Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp
Interior Architecture: Emil Sodersten Award
Australian Institute of Architects
The Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre successfully combines a vibrant community meeting place, a cafe, IT labs and a 300-seat theatre with an excellent library service. The architects have also designed a highly sustainable interior environment without compromising core functional requirements. The atmosphere within the library is enhanced by a substantial green wall installation, which is fundamental to the interior design and to the operation of mechanical systems to actively purify, oxygenate and cool the reading room spaces. The spaces have been organized to provide progression from a welcoming and lively introduction to more restrained and quieter spaces conducive to learning and study.
The architects have celebrated the major features and materials of the existing 1960s Bankstown Town Hall, which has been renovated and extended with the addition of the library. While there is extensive use of a range of salvaged Australian hardwood timbers internally, the design of the library’s external folded plate steel sunscreens reflects the forms of the town hall’s original precast concrete cladding.
The library’s reading spaces are enriched by soft, filtered southern light and panoramic views across the aquatic sculpture garden toward Paul Keating Park and the podium forecourt. A highlight of the library interior – spatially – is two soaring architectural “trees” that act as sculptural light diffusers, while the building’s outer skin of steel “leaves” acts as a further canopy of shade.
The book stacks have been cleverly integrated into the fabric of the building so as to create intimate spaces for quiet contemplation. At the same time these small spaces are open-ended to provide sightlines across the main atrium spaces. Such visual connections add to the cohesiveness of the interior. This densely programmed building offers Bankstown’s strong multicultural community a rich and comprehensive range of interiors in which to meet, learn, reflect and celebrate.