The State Library Victoria (SLV) welcomed an early Christmas present on Wednesday in the form of $13 million worth of funding for its redevelopment.

Investment banker and library chairman John Wylie and his wife, Myriam​ Boisbouvier-Wylie donated $8 million to the library in an extraordinary act of philanthropy while the Victorian Government has also committed an additional $5 million to the redevelopment on top of its $60.4 million already pledged.

Australian architecture practice Architectus and Danish practice Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects are leading the design and will be supported by Andronas Conservation Architects, Irwin Consult and Steensen Varming Engineers.

The project will see the expansion of the library’s public spaces, including the transformation of its eastern end into an exhibition gallery and state-of-the-art collaborative spaces, and the activation of all entrances to the Library and the surrounding streetscape.

The donation from the Wylies is one of the largest in the SLV’s history and, according to the Library, will be a major driver in achieving the aim of increasing the space available to the public by 40 per cent over the next three years.

It will provide the funds for the new gallery, to be known as The Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, which will focus on telling the state’s stories by showcasing the Library’s collection along with items from other institutions and private collections.

The government’s latest contribution will be used to “enhance and activate all entrances to the Library and the surrounding streetscape, which covers the entire city block”. It will also increase access with a new universally accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.

A café and retail area are planned for the Russell Street entrance.

Watch a summary of the project below:

State Library Victoria CEO, Kate Torney said it was a wonderful outcome for all Victorians.

“The commitment from the Victorian Government and the extraordinary generosity of the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation is a commitment to every Victorian that they will have a State Library that meets their changing needs and offers an experience that is truly unique.

“The Victoria Gallery will set a new global benchmark in library exhibitions and, coupled with our transformed Russell Street entrance, will create a compelling new destination for Melbourne,” she said.

The Victoria Gallery, the Russell Street transformation and activation of the Library’s entrances is part of the Library’s Vision 2020 redevelopment announced last year, with construction due to commence in 2017.

Key outcomes of the project (courtesy of SLV)

  • Create 40% additional public space to accommodate our ever-growing number of visitors, researchers and students
  • Redevelop existing public spaces, making them more accessible, adaptable, modern and innovative
  • Refurbish and reopen Queen's Hall, returning it to public use as a reading room and event space
  • Introduce fresh services and experiences to breathe new life into our heritage assets and extraordinary collections
  • Create engaging, purpose-built spaces for children, families and teenagers to nurture creative learning, literacy and play
  • Create a centre for digital living, promoting digital literacy and providing technology-enabled spaces for entrepreneurship and innovation to support and stimulate Victoria's creative economy
  • Strengthen the Library's position as the hub of Victoria's learning community, connecting audiences and libraries across the state via the e-Town Hall
  • Increase connection with regional Victorians through the digital delivery of programs
  • Increase contribution to Victoria's education economy by supporting the state's growing number of international students with improved access and spaces
  • Increase contribution to Victoria's tourism economy through the restoration and enhancement of heritage and exhibition spaces
  • Reinforce Melbourne's position as a UNESCO City of Literature and its reputation as a world-class centre for culture, arts and events