A builder has been appointed for the $88.1-million renovation of the State Library of Victoria, with construction soon to commence.
Draft concepts for the historic project were revealed in March by the two-firm design consortium, comprising Australian practice Architectus and Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The project will see the addition of a number of new spaces and technologies to the iconic heritage space, as well as the sensitive refurbishment of original rooms.
One of these existing rooms that will be refurbished is the Queen’s Reading Room, a lavish functions room on the top level of the library that has been closed to the public since 2003, with the exception of Melbourne Music Week last year, when organisers were granted permission to use it for performances.
Dating back to 1856, Queen’s Reading Room is the oldest reading room in the building. Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s proposal for the space will see it reopened as a reading room and a special events space in the evenings. The refurbishment will be done with respect to the heritage of the space, and consist of revealing the room’s original skylights, and stripping back walls to reveal the original 1860s colour scheme designed by architect Joseph Reed and Edward La Trobe Bateman.
New spaces will include a public-access room called Hansen Hall, which will be fitted with extensive library service technologies. Another will be called the ‘conversation’ quarter, which will be equipped with powerful communications technologies and connect the State Library of Victoria “in real-time” to international organisations such as NASA, the Bolshoi Ballet and the New York Public Library. Three new reading rooms, an exhibition space, and a new function room are also included in plans for the project.
The scale of the Victorian government-funded project has been made possible by generous donations from philanthropists Jane Hansen and Paul Little, as well as arts organisations such as the Ian Potter Foundation and the Myriam Wylie Foundation. The government itself has injected $60.4 million into the project.
Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen were chosen for the project in April 2016 following a state-led design competition. Construction was initially set to commence in July, but according to the government, the project is still expected to be complete by 2020.