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State Library of NSW to undergo $15m revamp

The State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) will be redeveloped with new gallery spaces and a children’s learning centre, following a $15-million private donation from benefactors.

The proposed works are the first stage of a masterplan to renew the library’s Mitchell and Macquarie buildings, developed in collaboration with Hassell in 2016.

The redevelopment includes a series of new gallery spaces, which will be located at the eastern side of the heritage-listed Mitchell building on Macquarie Street in Sydney’s CBD. It will extend the existing gallery spaces to the entire first floor of the Mitchell building, and will repurpose areas that were previously used for storage, offices and temporary displays.

“What we’re effectively doing is returning the eastern wing of the building to the public,” said Matthew Todd, a principal of Hassell. “Pretty much all of the building will be publicly accessible for the first time” when the refurbishment works are completed.

The Mitchell building was originally designed by Walter Liberty Vernon and was completed in 1907. According to its statement of heritage significance, “the building is of aesthetic significance reflecting important stylistic influences on architecture of the twentieth century.”

“It is significant as one of the only government buildings in the Federation Academic Classical styles. Only two of these are cultural buildings, the other being the Art Gallery of NSW,” which was also designed by Walter Liberty Vernon.

In accordance with the principles of the masterplan, the proposed works will retain, restore and enhance existing internal heritage with new elements.

Proposed galleries in the State Library of NSW designed by Hassell.

Proposed galleries in the State Library of NSW designed by Hassell.

Todd said the design of new galleries will complement the existing heritage galleries like “yin and yang.”

“They will have a different spatial experience to the existing heritage galleries that have pressed metal ceilings,” he said. “The new galleries will have their own character but we’ll be working with a neutral palette to complement the heritage galleries.

The new gallery spaces will allow the SLNSW to showcase local and international collections.

“The galleries will offer inspiring physical and digital experiences which bring to life the compelling stories and diverse voices within the Library’s collection of six million items,” said acting NSW state librarian and chief executive, Lucy Milne.

The redevelopment will also include a new children’s learning centre on the ground floor of the Mitchell building, which will include informal family spaces.

The redevelopment plans were approved by the City of Sydney on 3 January 2017. The library received $15 million in donations from long time supporters Michael Crouch AO and John B Fairfax AO, which then allow it to proceed with the redevelopment plans. The new Michael Crouch Galleries and John B Fairfax Learning Centre are set to open in early 2018.

Part of the stage one refurbishment works will also set up a vertical circulation stack that could be used in the future to connect proposed addition to the building that are still under assessment.

Further plans to redevelop the library include the creation of a 400-seat auditorium in the basement, as well as a rooftop restaurant and function space, as part of the NSW government’s plans to revitalize Macquarie Street.

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