Australia’s oldest and largest public library, the State Library Victoria, has completed its $88 million redevelopment.
Established in 1856 as "the people’s university", a 2020 vision for the state library has now increased public space by 40 per cent and seating by 70 per cent.
The library spans a full city block, and comprises 23 buildings that have evolved over its past 160 years.
Australian architecture firm Architectus and Danish architectural firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects were at the design helm of the fourth most-visited library in the world, as part of a five-year redevelopment plan.
Architectus principal and Melbourne studio leader Ruth Wilson describes the library’s design as a “focus on revealing rather than replicating the heritage elements”.
“Working with Andronas Conservation Architects, we developed this philosophy into a design approach that reveals elements such as the original decorative paint schemes, original timber flooring, and re-use of furniture,” Wilson said.
“We also consulted closely with Heritage Victoria throughout the design and construction process.”
The redevelopment and design focused on the Victoria Gallery, The 163-year-old Ian Potter Queen’s Hall which has now re-opened to the public after 16 years, the Russell Street entrance, the Isabella Fraser Room and the Quad, which connects all four of the library’s activity courtyards.
A 1910 marble staircase, allowing direct access to the dome, has also been reopened for the first time since 2003, with original worn marble retained and revealed beneath a new overlay.
“State Library Victoria is the ultimate memory institution,” Schmidt Hammer Lassen partner Elif Tinaztepe said.
“Its role as custodian of the past and curator of the future is vital. With new facilities, it will also act as a hub for creation of new knowledge for generations to come, as libraries should.”