Client: CITY OF GREATER GEELONG
THIS BUILDING INHABITS BOTH THE PAST AND THE FUTURE. ITS FORM PAYS HOMAGE TO THE IDEALS OF SELF-IMPROVEMENT, KNOWLEDGE AND CURIOSITY EXPRESSED IN THE DOMES OF GREAT READING ROOMS SUCH AS THE STATE LIBRARY VICTORIA.
Three conceptual challenges sparked our design. We wanted to celebrate the tradition of great libraries, create an ambitious, future-oriented building, and design an organic structure that lets the natural world penetrate the interior.
The 5-Star Green Star-rated building combines the library and heritage centre and creates a new community gathering place for residents of one of Australia’s fastest growing regional cities.
The building slots in between the 1926 Geelong Peace Memorial and the Geelong Art Gallery, with which it shares a new conditioned exhibition space. It opens out onto historic Johnstone Park, which contains many significant trees such as the heritage-listed Fastigated Monterey Cypress. Our building is open to all these historic influences. We cut away part of the dome to extend the park into the building, a reference to ideas of gardens of learning and to the picturesque early Australian tradition of the beautiful ruin.
The crystalline glass shards of the west- and south-facing walls are like stalactites at the entrance of a cave. They recall the Renaissance tradition of the grotto as a primal space of retreat and reflection but the structural glazing of the façades—with both vision glass and shadow boxes—gives them the highest possible thermal rating. The design adds many boughs to the Geelong library: every floor looks onto the trees.
The landscaped west-facing terrace garden on level one and the north-facing “mahogany ship” deck on level five let visitors step out and enjoy views over the park and Corio Bay.
The domed roof is made of 332 large glass reinforced concrete (GRC) panels. This unusual cladding system comprises 18 different standard hexagonal tiles and one standard pentagram arranged in a repetitive mirrored array to form a geodesic dome, the first ARM has designed. It is set out much like the skin of a soccer ball. (By contrast, copper domes, such as State Library Victoria, are made from ribbed parallelograms.)
Tiles, coloured in a palette of four muted browns, are graded in a heat map pattern to accentuate the crest of the dome. The colours link the new building with the historic ones around it so it clearly belongs but is also distinctive and new.
Visitors navigate the building via a bilingual directions board in English and in Wadawurrung, the local Indigenous language. The ground floor has an 80-seat café, a community gathering space, galleries, and popular books and magazines and the conditioned exhibition space.
Libraries are increasingly seen as a third space, separate from home and work, and the first two floors are buzzy places where people can meet and talk. Floor one is for children and young people. Floor two is for adult collections, magazines, journals and e-resources and includes a reading lounge and study rooms.
The core of the library, floor three, is quiet. The climate-controlled Heritage Centre houses Victoria’s biggest regional collection of public and private records, all stored on site in a vast compactus. A supervised reading room has smart tables and digital microfilm readers. The fourth floor is for staff and the fifth contains a flexible function room for up to 250 people. Its spacious deck has panoramic views over Corio Bay and to the You Yangs.
Environmentally sensitive design features include a displacement air system and in-slab floor heating. Custom-made “clover columns” (shaped like the lucky leaf) waft conditioned air from the ground up. Pipes woven into the concrete scree radiate heat up through your feet. Both features minimise energy costs.
A quarter of the lower-ground floor is devoted to water collection and grey water treatment. The building is powered by a large solar array installed on the roof of the Peace Memorial next door. It is horizontal instead of raked so it is visually discreet.