Buchan completes Australia’s first standalone children’s library

Oct 8, 2021
  • Article by Stefanie Markidis

A giant timber tree sits at the heart of a newly unveiled children’s library by Buchan, located in the centre of the Queensland city of Ipswich.

The purpose-built library is part of a $250 million CBD redevelopment that includes new council buildings, an adult library and carpark facilities.

Drawing from its surroundings near Bremer River and its own external garden area, which features indigenous landscaping and sculptures of native animals, the space is designed to bring the outside in.

“The interior is vertically defined by the sculptural reading tree, which shares a dialogue with the adjacent mature vegetation along the river – a relationship that the city sadly hasn’t embraced in the past,” says Buchan Brisbane principal and director Todd Crighton.

“The tree provides an escape for young people to rest and read in its hollow. Its real impact, however, is seen from afar.

“The tree’s location in the children’s library make its the central focal point visible from the administration lobby and right across the civic plaza from the main library.”

Integrated lighting accentuates the angular trunk and branch shapes of the timber to emulate the changing shape of a tree, while folded acoustic panels with up lighting imitate its canopy.

Leaf shaped ottomans arranged around the tree’s base and carpet tile in various shades of green further “mimic the shadows of the canopy and varying densities of grass”.

Beyond the tree, Australia’s first standalone children’s library houses more than 35,000 items designed specifically for its young users, with pictorial cues to help them find books suited to their interests.

“Every aspect of the design has been created exclusively for young people,” says Buchan head of interiors Valerie Mack.

“Right down to the shelving and furniture heights, interactive activities, hidey holes and reading nooks.

“Unlike the children’s section in most other main libraries, this is a space where everything is for the kids. They haven’t been made to fit around everything else.”

Prehistoric creatures feature heavily in the interior of Ipswich’s children’s library with two life-sized dinosaurs suspended from the ceiling – one of which can be ‘fed’ through a pneumatic pipe.

Elsewhere, children can scan their colouring and watch it move on two large interactive screens. While at the ‘magic mirror”, butterflies swarm around them.

The final space – a quiet zone tucked away in a corridor space – is described by Buchan as a “surprise for children to find”.

Here, curved nook shelving features a changing collection of books. “Sinuous shelves” are fitted with colourful upholstered reading nooks for children.

A separate event space with modular furniture and stage pieces has also been set aside for events and readings.

Photography: Mindi Cooke.

A global design practice with a team of over 220 experts, Buchan has studios across Australia, New Zealand, and China.

The practice was also responsible for Ipswich City Council’s new administration building – designed with the tone, colour and limestone of Queensland’s mining history – and the nearby adult’s library, which has been shortlisted for IDEA 2021’s Public Space award.

Buchan is also behind the recently opened Bar Alba in Kew, which features a large marble counter fashioned after “nonna’s table” with a “joy in letting life live” in the material.

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