Refurbished State Library Victoria wins Urban Design Award

By Kaylah-Joelle Baker

State Library Victoria has recently acclaimed recognition through the Melbourne Awards, taking home this year’s Urban Design Award. 

Designed by Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen, the library’s $88.1 million refurbishments were completed in December 2019 after nearly five years of construction.

But despite nearing two years of completion, the last couple of years have made it difficult for people to enjoy the “Vision 2020” project as intended.

The President of the Library Board of Victoria Christine Christian expressed her excitement in now being able to share the “ambitious” project with the Victorian community.

“Vision 2020 responded to the community’s changing needs and is more important now than ever. The increased space, services and programs make the library the perfect place for people to reconnect, to be challenged and to be inspired,” she said. 

Running against the State Library Victoria for the Urban Design Award were the RMIT Rhodda Lane precinct, commercial development at 130 Lonsdale St and Hilton Melbourne on Little Queen St.

Announced as the winner on November 13, Lord Mayor Sally Capp has applauded the library alongside the other finalists as a “testament to [Melbourne’s] passionate and innovative community”. 

“We’re thrilled to recognise and celebrate the inspirational people who are making invaluable contributions to our city,” the Lord Mayor said. 

Continuing to ensure the library is one for all Victorians and visitors, the State Library has gone above and beyond to meet the demands of their audiences’ needs. 

Noticing a 200 per cent increase over the previous years in families with young children attending the library, State Library Victoria’s Acting CEO Sarah Slade said the library wanted to provide a space “where [children and families] feel comfortable”.

This led to the dedicated children-friendly Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter – a section of the library with a collection of books in various languages for varying ages and a place where “children are free to run around and play”. 

The library has also refurbished and re-opened its original reading room, The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, which had been closed to the public for 16 years, while expanding the library to include 40 per cent more public space and 70 per cent extra seats.

Alongside working with original areas, the library is proud to now be home to new creative spaces like StartSpace in the Ideas Quarter.

Developed to “support early stage business founders”, the new service is tapping into what the State Library exists to do. 

“Libraries have always been about literacy, support, information and knowledge, and StartSpace is a free business support service specifically designed for new and early-stage business founders,” Ms Slade said. 

“It was developed to provide practical guidance, information and inspiration, and to help people who are starting new businesses to take an initial concept and turn it into reality.” 

Excited to now have no lockdown to contend with, Ms Slade has said there will be a range of “colourful” in-person events over the summer holidays. Including the recently announced LEGO-inspired activities to be hosted by “The Brickman”, Ryan McNaught from January 10 to February 6. 

“It’s been a tough couple of years for all of us in Victoria, and we are so excited to welcome Victorians back to the Library,” she said. 

“[The team] are proud because the Urban Design Award really is an award for all Victorians. It’s their library, their collection, and it’s accessible and free for all. Everything we have done is for them.”

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