Philanthropic donations to the tune of $15 million will be used to develop new “world‐class” public galleries and a premier learning space at The State Library of NSW.

The galleries and learning space will be located in the Library’s historic Mitchell building and are part of a bigger masterplan to transform the 106-year old Sydney landmark into a “global cultural destination.”

Zip Industries founder Michael Crouch and publisher John B. Fairfax are the two major donors for the latest stage of the project, which, once complete, will rival other facilities in the CBD like the Art Gallery and Australian Museum for the title of Sydney’s premier cultural destination.

A major part of the State Library’s bid will rely on significantly increasing its capacity to exhibit its massive stockpile of cultural artefacts and items which are mostly in storage. As it stands, only one per cent of the Library’s six million items are on display at any given time, but a Hassell-designed masterplan will change all that.

Hassell has been involved with the masterplan from the beginning, and as one of the firms’ principals, Matthew Todd says has been leading a two-pronged design approach which will reconnect the various disjointed elements of the building and open them up to the public.

“There’s two conceptual elements to the design,” says Todd.

“Firstly, we’re revealing and interpreting the layers of heritage of the building, and secondly we’re reconnecting these layers with clarity and to the public.”

The proposed Michael Crouch Galleries. Above: Circulation gallery/semi-permanent exhibition space (Level 1). Below: New Gallery space 1 (Level 1) 011609_Visualisation_04-1.jpg

The project will connect existing and new elements with new circulations, new stairs, lifts and spaces to reimagine the library for the future and to make it viable for the 21st century.

The difficulty, says Todd, is that while the existing building from its exterior looks holistic, it has been designed and realised over a period of phases by different government architects.

“We want to reconnect all these elements to make sense of the building,” he says.

“And open it up for the public.”

“It’s such a great opportunity for us to be involved in this project. It’s the reawakening of a Sydney icon.” – Matthew Todd, Hassell principal.

The latest stage is the new Michael Crouch Galleries and John B. Fairfax Reading Room but there are many other elements to the project which have been designed by Hassell with aid of a heritage architect. The refurbishment of the Library’s Dixon wing (an old heritage wing on the western side) and the Library’s Collection Care laboratory are also on the cards, as is a new rooftop facility.

Above: New Gallery space 2, view over The Domain (Level 1). Below: Circulation gallery/stair view (Level 1)

The Michael Crouch Galleries will stretch across the first floor of the Mitchell building, doubling the Library's exhibition space.

Todd says the project has moved through DA approval, and is now moving onto the next phases of approval.

Images: Hassell