Finalist 2021

La Trobe University Library Bendigo

La Trobe University / Kosloff Architecture / Structural Engineering: IRWIN / Consulting Engineers Services Engineering: Stantec / Building Surveyor: Philip Chun

Embracing the possibility of a new typology, we focused on facilitating community connection, rather than just spaces for book collection.

This new library fitout is spread across three levels and includes an entry gallery, consultation rooms, ASK La Trobe information pods, postgraduate lounge, board room and integrated display of the seminal ‘Sandhurst’ book collection. The client was keen to challenge the concept of a traditional library. We embraced the possibility of a new typology with a focus on facilitating community ‘connection’, rather than just spaces for book ‘collection.’ Located within the large regional town of Bendigo, the library becomes more than a repository for books, rather a meeting place for students and surrounding community to exchange ideas and share knowledge.

Design Brief

The design brief for the project required the fitout of an existing building across three levels and included an entry gallery, consultation rooms, ASK La Trobe information pods, postgraduate lounge, board room and integrated display of the seminal ‘Sandhurst’ book collection. Our client cited flexibility and a future proofed outcome as a key driver for the project. The ability of spaces to respond too and adapt to new technology or needs. This was addressed by leaving key elements such as the existing ceiling infrastructure and vermiculite coated steel structure untouched and unadorned. The new architectural interventions were treated as installations clearly distinguishable from the shell, with autonomous objects separated from the ceiling and floating from the floor. Consequently, adaption and intervention in the future is unencumbered by a need to remove walls and ceilings. An exposed aesthetic facilitates plug and play.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Kosloff Architecture's involvement in this project was from inception until completion, through architectural phases concept design, design development, construction documentation and contract administration. The project was tendered and run as a lump sum contract through La Trobe University and interrogated by the engaged quantity surveyor at the completion of each phase. Given the challenges of working within an existing structure, regular site meetings ensured prompt resolution of unforeseen issues. The stakeholder engagement process underpinned the refinement of the brief and this was facilitated and run by Kosloff Architecture. We utilised an adapted form of the RASCI Responsibility Matrix to assign and display responsibilities of individuals within the overall project framework and ensure the stakeholder consultation process was mutually agreed and approved from the onset. A combination of workshops and one on one interviews were used to shape the reverse brief that ultimately defined the conceptual and design development approach to the project.

Design Excellence

The typology of the library has shifted dramatically over recent years. The advent of the internet and therefore the manner in which we access information has triggered a re-thinking of the purpose of the library. What does it serve and who does it serve? The library is no longer just a book repository filled with instructional signage encouraging general silence. The book still remains incredibly important as a source of information and indeed for the 'identity' of the library, however the manner in which we learn and communicate has greatly influenced spatial arrangement and planning of this library. In the interests of truly reflecting a new library future, Kosloff Architecture worked extensively with the client and stakeholders to interrogate and understand where the shifts had occurred and how this might manifest in the design outcome. We encouraged visionary thinking through scenario imagining. Connection was privileged over collection.

Design Innovation

One of the challenges for a regional University is its ability to connect with other University campuses and indeed attract students to spend time at the University. Located just outside the city centre, La Trobe University Bendigo offers diverse teaching and learning opportunities but lacked a campus centre. Students had regularly cited a desire to have a vibrant heart that could function both as a learning facility as well as accommodate external events and socialising. It was clear that this reworking needed to accommodate for more than a traditional library and indeed encourage and enable 'social' activities to also occur within the spaces. Upon entering the library at ground level, one is greeted by a grand stair adorned with cascading pods - semitransparent glass structures that house a secured book collection. Their blurred spines contribute the only colours of the space, reimagining them as artefacts surrounding the central stair that links the levels. The entire ground floor can function for multiple uses. Track lighting enables a public gallery. The information and ASK La Trobe facilities near the entry can be converted easily to function as a bar to events. Infrastructure and a raised plinth in one corner facilitate plug in coffee karts for events. It is envisaged that during 'Orientation Weeks' this will be the epicentre of information and socialising. On level 1 a digital Learning Lab has been located with virtual reality technology. This level also contains the Library Digitisation Hub which transforms rare, fragile, and culturally significant documents into accessible digitalised items. Level 2 becomes the new home to the 'Sandhurst Collection'. This remarkable book collection has been housed in a purpose-built lounge that invites community and external contributors to visit.

Design Impact

One of the most admirable outcomes of this project is the investment in creating a high-quality facility on a regional University campus, that can be utilised by students, academics, and the community alike. More than a library, the scheme is generous and forward thinking and shifts seamlessly between digital technology and physical books and artifacts, presenting a strong identity as to the ‘new’ public library. Whilst COVID has been challenging for universities, the need for a facility such as this when life returns to a new normal will be paramount. Embedding the 'Sandhurst Collection' into the library creates an attractant to encourage outside visitors.

Architectural Design 2021 Finalists

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