Best in Category - Architectural Design 2020

State Library Victoria Vision 2020 Redevelopment

Architectus / Schmidt Hammer Lassen / SLV

The Redevelopment ensures the State Library Victoria remain the epicentre for education, ideas, creativity and debate in Victoria for years to come.

The State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest and busiest public library and the fourth most-visited library in the world, it is a beloved hub and haven for curious minds of all ages and from all walks of life.

The Vision 2020 Redevelopment ensures it will remain the epicentre for education, ideas, creativity and debate in Victoria for years to come. Public space is increased by 40% and seating by 70%, expanding the possibilities of the Library’s function, making the visitor experience memorable and meaningful and enabling connections to be made with the collection, with individuals and with the community.

Design Excellence

The design puts users at the centre, providing an open, accessible, and welcoming experience for all ages and cultural backgrounds.

All restoration works were based on a firm philosophy of revealing the heritage aspects of the building, rather than replicating them. Each space is relieved of years of clutter and additions to reveal the originally intended volume and details. New air handling systems, lighting, equal access and acoustic treatments are carefully and almost invisibly integrated into existing building fabric. New intervention such as stairs, lifts, joinery, fixtures and fittings are intentionally contemporary and cannot be confused with the original fabric.

Design Impact

The redevelopment draws visitors through a clear hierarchy of thresholds and spaces, connecting the various zones of the library physically and visually, engendering a sense of discovery and delight.

After five decades of darkness, natural light pours in from restored roof lights of the Ian Potter Queens Hall and the original decorative paint scheme by Edward La Trobe Bateman is revealed in a series of careful archaeological paint-scrapes. The age of the hall is thereby tangible and in this building chartered withholding and protecting original sources, it is fitting that we are shown the original paint scheme, not a replication.

Design Transformation

The redevelopment presents a lesson in refinement, stripping back to enhance the existing, while introducing new understated additions that let the story of the historic building come to the fore. The transformation makes everyone feel welcome, no matter who they are, where they’re from or what they’re doing. Each space has a distinct ambiance and the ability to be configured to support a wide range of programs, activities and events. The adaptable, inviting design, along with the way in which the spaces flow together, intuitively encourages visitors to explore and engage with all the Library has to offer.

Design Innovation

To minimise embodied energy in new materials and building construction, the design team worked intently to retain any building fabric with residual life, embracing not only the heritage aspects but also elements with dated 1980’s and 90’s aesthetics which may have otherwise been jettisoned. A project-specific sustainability framework focussed initiatives around maximising occupant comfort, minimising energy and water use, limiting pollutants and creating long-life, adaptable and reconfigurable spaces. The Bauer Optimising System was chosen for the historic Ian Potter Queens Hall; a patented control algorithm creates a non-directed chaotic airflow, achieving 30% energy saving, limited ductwork and very quiet supply.

Other Key Features

The transformation:

  • Provides International Gallery conditions in the Victoria Gallery allowing the rarest collections to be exhibited
  • Reopens the Russell Street entry after over a decade closed, creating the through-block connection between Swanston Street and Russell Street and activating Russell Street
  • Creates a universally accessible entrance on La Trobe Street
  • Enables a multitude of library spaces to be programmed for events, serviced by a new state of the art commercial kitchen and audio-visual systems, underpinning the library’s financial sustainability and increasing use
  • Enables two-way streaming to regional Victoria (and other locations) connecting communities digitally

Architectural Design 2020 Finalists

In Absence

Edition Office / Yhonnie Scarce / National Gallery of Victoria

RMIT Capitol Theatre

Six Degrees Architects / Michael Taylor Architects / GHD / Slattery / Schuler Shook


Breathe Architecture

Jackalope Pavilion

March Studio / Jackalope Group / Random International / CodBuild


Cumulus Studio / Arts Centre Melbourne

Rod Laver Arena

COX Architecture / Development Victoria / Melbourne & Olympic Parks / Lendlease

Bardolph Gardens

Breathe Architecture

Reservoir Station

Genton / McGregor Coxall

Bayswater Early Years Hub

k20 Architecture / Knox City Council


SheltAir / Swinburne University of Technology / Enzie

Ona Coffee

Breathe Architecture