The redeveloped Ivanhoe Library and Cultural Hub is a community facility with a difference. Much more than a home to a collection of books, this is a place that brings different people and services together under the one roof – as Banyule City Council intended – providing an accessible and inclusive space to embrace learning and cultural experiences, all year round.

The Ivanhoe Library and Cultural Hub also offers several art spaces­ including a gallery, theatrette and artist studio to showcase artistic talents and encourage activity and collaborations as well as various program rooms for workshops and talks, and a maternal and child health centre.

Led by Croxon Ramsay Architects, the innovative, well-considered design clearly celebrates the old, and respectfully merges it with the new – both in terms of welcoming the oldest and newest members of the community to use its myriad of facilities, and combining historic, old buildings with a contemporary new addition.

Delivering the perfect balance between the two is a work of brilliance.

Located next to the historic Ivanhoe Town Hall, Croxon Ramsay’s contemporary addition is sensitive to the historic nature of the building, while offering a series of flexible spaces to encourage service intermingling. For instance, the function centre of the old Town Hall connects to the new foyer, so the doors of the Town Hall can be opened and the foyer used as a pre or post function drinks area. A dedicated space in the library can be used by the artist in residence to run programs for teens, and a café in the foyer, currently run by the function centre, will eventually become a social enterprise where young adults can work and gain hospitality experience.

The building’s natural, earthy material palette also celebrates the merging of old and new.

A beautiful curved wall of Krause bricks in custom colours greets you at the front entrance. To complement the brick and the external landscaping, a green powdercoated metal façade – both plain and perforated­ – provides much-needed sun protection to the southeast corner, which is heavily glazed to maximise breathtaking city views.

Krause bricks

Inside, the Krause bricks continue, bringing tactility and warmth into the building.

“The Krause bricks are very tactile and have that handmade feeling about them. And the colour and texture work well with the old building, which is a redder brick. We chose something that would complement that, but look different, and not match it.  Krause is a contemporary brick, but it works well with the existing one,” says Catherine Ramsay, director, Croxon Ramsay Architects.

“And when you walk into the atrium of the new building, you see the back of the old building, which provides that sense of history, but at the same time you are bringing it together with the new,” Ramsay continues.

It’s not only the brick’s aesthetics that appeals, but also the fact that they’re locally made in Stawell, offering a sustainable solution. As does the Recycled Silver Top Ash, which pairs beautifully with the bricks: The timber is used extensively throughout the building on the floor, ceiling, stairs as well as wall veneer and also in the form of a glued laminated timber for privacy screens to break up the spaces within the library, enabling people to use the space for different purposes.

Together, it’s a warm, welcoming palette that’s seamless outside and in.

The Ivanhoe Library and Cultural Centre is sure to become a benchmark in Victoria for future developments. Council is receiving fantastic community feedback, and it was presented as a standout case study by Croxon Ramsay at the Victorian State Library conference in June.

Indeed, Croxon Ramsay is to be congratulated for delivering such an innovative building that provides the perfect balance between old and new. It not only welcomes the old Ivanhoe community, but new residents, too. And more than that, it seamlessly mixes different services in the one location, openly promoting learning and literacy, and enabling people to connect with others in their community who they may not otherwise normally engage with. That’s what sets this initiative apart.

Photographer: Dianna Snape (except Ivanhoe Library close-up photo)