New space opens at Australia's largest public library
Schmidt Hamer Lassen
Schmidt Hammer Lassen redevelop Melbourne institution
Australia’s oldest and largest public library has recently opened new spaces designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, completing the first phase of a five-year redevelopment plan. The work on State Library Victoria in Melbourne is taking place under the scheme Vision 2020, an ambitious AU$88.1 million transformation set to increase public space by 40 percent.
The 164-year old library has undergone expansion since its initial construction, growing to its current size of 23 individual buildings occupying an entire block in the city centre. Before redevelopment, the fragmented layout meant that visitors could enter and leave without being made aware of all the facilities on offer. Working in partnership with local architectural firm Architectus, Schmidt Hammer Lassen aimed to provide a strong design to unite the various functions and provide a framework for future work.
Formerly housing the Melbourne Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria, the redeveloped sites are now serviced by an accessible entrance on La Trobe Street and the historic Russell Street entrance, which was closed for more than a decade. Inside, Baldwin Spencer Hall has been transformed into a welcoming space with a lounge, meeting space, café and bookshop. Works from local visual artist Tai Snaith span a 29-metre wall, while tradition has been kept by restoring the original floors made from jarrah, a hardwood native to Australia.
Moving further into the library, the redeveloped McArthur and Swinburne Galleries house reading rooms designated as quiet space for research. State-of-the-art audio-visual technology and a 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, due to open in 2019 in order to offer an immersive and interactive experience for visitors.
Redevelopment of additional spaces throughout the library will open to the public in 2020.
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