The architectural designs for the proposed $88.1 million redevelopment of State Library Victoria have been revealed with construction due to commence this July.

The project is a collaboration between Australia's Architectus and Denmark’s Schmidt Hammer Lassen, and will open up 40 per cent more space to the public, add more reading rooms, and completely transform the Melbourne institution.

The project will also offer a new universal-access entrance on La Trobe Street; dedicated spaces for children and families, young people and entrepreneurs; emerging digital technology; and a new function room, the Isabella Fraser Room, named after the State Library’s first female employee.

Ruth Wilson, director at Architectus says that the design prepares the library for its future uses and will cement its position in Melbourne’s history as the centre of inspiration and education. Key to this future, says Wilson, will be the reopening of the 160-year old Ian Potter Queen’s Hall after a decade of closure.

“If Melbourne is a city of rooms, then the 160-year old Ian Potter Queen’s Hall is the jewel in the crown,” she says.

“Ensconced in history, the Hall will be reopened to the public after more than a decade. We’re stripping the space back to reveal its original beauty, literally stripping the walls to expose the original paint work, while drawing a modern design line through the Hall and the rest of the Library to link all the rooms together.”

The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall will by day be a reading room, but by night will be transformed into a space for a variety of events – dinners, debates, lectures, cocktail parties, fashion parades, book launches – the opportunities are endless.


The project is also another example of cross-nation collaboration, something we’ve seen a lot of lately, particularly on landmark towers in Melbourne and Sydney, and often with Architectus involvement. The firm has worked, and continues to work, often as executive architects, on some of the largest projects in the country.

They’ve teamed up with the UK’s Make Architects on the Wynyard Station upgrade in Sydney and with Wilkinson Eyre, also of the UK, on the $2 billion Crown Tower in Melbourne.

Wilson says that collaboration does pose geographical challenges but that these are met with regular video conferences to accommodate for the time difference. She also says that conferencing at odd hours, 3pm and midnight, often worked to the team’s advantage because it meant they woke up to something that was already resolved.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen also visited Melbourne on three occasions for week long, intensive workshops at different phases of the State Library project, focussing on the vision of the spaces, the physical requirements of the space, and then the details of each space.

Wilson notes that Architectus thoroughly enjoy the process of collaboration with international architects, and also local architecture firms.

“Exposure to different working styles and schools of thought make for an incredibly enriching experience, and there’s a great opportunity for learning and excitement in it all,” she says.

“No two firms are the same, and so to see how different architects approach different projects is very interesting. To put it simply, it’s fun collaborating with other people and our team get an awful lot out of it.”

Key outcomes of the State Library Victoria redevelopment include:

  • 40 per cent more public space
  • three new reading rooms
  • Ian Potter Queen’s Hall to be restored and reopened
  • Russell Street entrance to be reopened after 15 years as a vibrant cafe and collaborative workspace
  • Readings bookshop footprint to increase by around 60 per cent
  • A new international-standard exhibition space to be created endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation


State Library CEO Kate Torney says the designs are based on substantial inputs and feedback received from the community over a period of 18 months. She adds that the designs strike a beautiful balance between restoring and celebrating the heritage of this wonderful institution and responding to the changing and varied needs of visitors.

Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley outlined how Vision 2020 anticipated the needs of a new generation of creative thinkers. He explained that the State Library Vision 2020 project was created with generations of new library users in mind from infants and toddlers to primary schoolers, teenagers and young entrepreneurs. The Library will provide access to the knowledge and learning opportunities they will need to participate in the economy of the future, while at the same time celebrating the extraordinary heritage of this site.

The delivery of Vision 2020 is being managed by Major Projects Victoria. Minister for Major Projects, Jacinta Allan said the project will transform the iconic building, modernising the Library while respecting and restoring its history. The increase in public space will create new exciting areas for families and kids while the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, the oldest part of the Library, is being reopened after more than a decade.

A public fundraising campaign was also simultaneously launched with a $3 million donation by philanthropists Maria and Allan Myers, QC. The Myers donation takes the total amount of funds raised by the Library through philanthropic support to $21.8 million, with another $5.9 million remaining to be raised to meet the $27.7 million target required to fund Vision 2020.

The government and philanthropic funding model is unique, with the State Government committing $2 for every $1 raised. The State Government has committed $60.4 million to fund Vision 2020.

State Library Victoria is working closely with Heritage Victoria to ensure the design and development complies with all heritage requirements. The construction is due for completion by 2020.