BVN has won two Learning Environment Awards for kids libraries at the 2021 Learning Environment Awards Australasia, for their designs at the State Library of New South Wales and the International Grammar School in Sydney.

Libraries have evolved in the recent past from the scholarly pursuit and quiet atmosphere, to spaces with interactive features and spatial designs. BVN’s previous work on the Marrickville and Woollahra Libraries were a catalyst for change, with the new library spaces at the State Library and International Grammar School deservedly winning awards for the practice.

The International Grammar School library in Sydney is a genuine place of retreat for students amongst an outside world of bustling activity. Students enter the library by crossing what appears to be a cool forest floor. It’s a magical space featuring a glass pond complete with lily pads leading through a bright tunnel to a conservatory for group study. A lookout at the entrance, sequestered within greenery, overlooks the school’s main stairway. A pop-out window overlooks the sports hall in one direction, and another pop-out peers into an adjacent amphitheatre.

international grammar school bvn

Here, up to 80 students can gather on tiered seating, under a striking glowing ceiling, made of stretched fabric illuminated by LED lights. Continuous planting on a trellis gives the feeling of being outside - an important feature for an urban campus with limited outdoor space. Beyond the amphitheatre, the library continues into a larger, more flexible open space, with reading room, study nooks and benches along the peripherals, and a beautiful outdoor learning terrace.

“We wanted to create a place that was a sanctuary for the students - a physical change to the environment, offering them a place to pause, recharge and be creative,” says Architect Phillip Rossington.

The State Library Learning Centre was given a Commendation in the Small Projects category, a category for libraries specifically designed in collaboration with learning teams and kids. The centre which occupies the ground floor of the historic Mitchell Building, is a light, bright and flexible space which is exciting and engaging. Featuring huge arched windows that face the Royal Botanic Gardens, enticing reading nooks and playful interactive floors, the library is an experience unmatched by the classroom.

nsw state library bvn

The entry to the centre is through a ‘secret’ door, tucked away behind a painting which is a huge LCD screen, providing elements of discovery and surprise. Then it is into a magical four metre tunnel, which gradually tapers and shrinks to a child’s scale. The tunnel is lined with interactive elements and displayed artefacts and offers a peek-a-boo moment in the adjacent family room. At the end of the tunnel, the student ‘pops’ out into the Learning Centre. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases mirror the arched windows, complete with cosy window seats between them. There are writable wall surfaces, quirky break-out areas, an interactive floor, and a Digital lab which houses high-end technology including a 3D printer.