Additions to the existing Bairnsdale Library to include flexible group, individual and community spaces
The very idea of a library doesn’t seem to make sense in our contemporary world: a free, open, public facility that connects people and provides information and services. It is the pure definition of a public building that, if done well, can be a cultural container that also defines its place. As architects all we need to do is orientate people in this cultural, ecological and social space.
Bairnsdale is located 281 Km east of Melbourne and has a population of 11,500. The ‘local’ East Gippsland council serves an area of 21,056 square km. The council laid down the challenge to us that placed great value on the public library’s services to the community.
To them the library is “one of the most adaptable buildings that is regularly reviewing and refocusing to meet the changing demands and challenges of (their) community”.
So we asked how can we create a new civic heart for Bairnsdale. We wanted to make a new institution that seeps into the consciousness of all who visit. We realised were designing a memory, a useful repository and a continuum of civic planes.
We designed a space that is adaptable and flexible, even the books can be pushed away. We realised this can make a building both useful and memorable.
The architecture pushes three elements together – the contemporary white tent pushes up against the original library of 1888. This sectional move produces light, energy and drama. It also facilitates the sustainable systems that are important to any contemporary building; providing rainwater collection, solar arrays and natural ventilation. The tent also has a stratified foundation, recalling the mountain river banks close by; this in turn pushes into the ordinary strip shop creating an external stage.
In our library we simply want people to be freer, more open and even enlightened.