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The State Library of Victoria's 2020 vision

The State Library of Victoria is set to undergo further transformation as part of the library's $88.1 million 2020 Vision. The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall and a number of gallery spaces are set to be reopened to the public as multi-functional spaces after many years behind closed doors.

Great halls, intersections between old and recent building additions and defunct lobbies and entrances will be transformed into welcoming spaces for learning, playing, socialising, and listening.

The designs for the project by Architectus in association with Denmark's Schmidt Hammer Lassen will reintroduce 40 percent more space to the public, including the significant historic refurbishment and reconfiguration of the Queen’s Hall and the Russell Street entrance.

The upgrade will also see the introduction of a Children’s Quarter, with the theme of learning weaved throughout the design of the Library.

The State Library's new Children's Quarter. Image supplied

The Victorian Government is providing $60.4 million worth of funding towards the project with the remaining $27.7 million to be raised through philanthropic support. Already the library has raised $21 million with $3 million from Maria and Allan Myers QC, $8 million from the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation and $10 million from the Ian Potter Foundation.

Yesterday's announcement also coincided with the launch of a public fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $5.9 million required.

The revitalisation of the State Library of Victoria will see 40 percent more space released to the public with the opening of the Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, The Victoria Gallery, the Russell Street entry, the Banquet Hall, as well as welcoming new rooms like the Children’s Quarter.

If Melbourne is a city of rooms, then the 160-year old Ian Potter Queen’s Hall is the jewel in the crown. 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 Russell Street entrance will offer another activation point to the Library, while encouraging movement through the buildings and bringing to life a side of the Library that has long been quiet. The new entrance will also relieve some of the foot traffic from the Swanston Street main entrance by providing a social space for people to visit as they wait for the Library to open, or to pass through for a coffee. Housing a Readings bookshop, a coffee cart and co-working space, the Russell Street entrance will open new ways for visitors to experience the Library.

We’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with an architecture firm that is world renowned for its work on libraries. Schmidt Hammer Lassen has brought invaluable knowledge and creativity to the table, challenging us to approach the State Library with international ingenuity.

Schmidt Hammer Lassen have designed many of the world’s leading 21st Century libraries, and they are at the forefront of exploring everything a library can mean for today’s cities. Architectus has the ability to bring this rich experience to our home town, and this means that the Library gets the best international thinking with a team that lives and breathes the local context, and can deliver the project to the highest quality

Ruth Wilson, Director, Architectus

Key design features

  • Queen’s Hall: positioned on the upper floor of the Swanston Street entrance, the Queen’s Hall was part of the original 1856 build, but has been closed for 15 years. One of Melbourne’s very special rooms, it is set to be reopened as a reading room for the public during the day and transformed into an events space at night to host anything from lavish weddings to political debates. The designs will see the walls stripped back to the original 1856 paint work to connecting the past to now, as well as repairing the original timber herringbone floor.
  • Russell Street entrance: taking the strain off foot traffic through the Swanston street entrance, the Russell Street entrance will be reopened as a welcome space with a café, Readings bookshop and information kiosk, as well as a co-working space for budding businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Children’s Quarter: Housed in the intersection between four building additions from different periods, the Children’s Quarter will open the doors for the future generations of library-goers, with a wide variety of spatial experiences that were imagined through extensive workshops and consultation with young people – from quiet nooks to self-guided learning, to bright and colourful play spaces that encourage children to be anything they want to be.

The delivery of Vision 2020 is being managed by Major Projects Victoria with construction due to commence in July 2017.

The State Library's new spaces set to open to the public. Image supplied

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