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An innovative design by Stewart Hollenstein in association with Colin Stewart Architects has beaten over 160 submissions from over 29 countries and four shortlisted entrants to win the Green Square Library and Plaza competition, announced by the City of Sydney this morning.
The competition followed a two-stage format, and called for a “functional, flowing space” between the library and plaza, with consideration for the site’s heritage value, opportunities for public installations and easy access, in addition to “good value for money”.
Redefining the traditional idea of a library, the winning design fuses a range of buildings with the outdoor plaza to create multiple sites for a number of uses. With part of the design below ground, the scheme includes an amphitheatre, a storytelling garden, a water play zone and wide open spaces for festivals and public usage.
Punctuated by ‘pop-up’ and ‘cut-out’ elements at Plaza level, the single-level library won over the jury with its efficiency of planning. Stewart Hollenstein + Colin Stewart Architects’ design beat the likes of John Wardle Architects, JPE Design Studio, Felix Laboratories and Flannery & de la Pole (UK) in winning the competition.
“We are absolutely thrilled and the nicest part is that this is a concept we are absolutely passionate about because it puts people above everything,” said Felicity Stewart, co-founder of Stewart Hollenstein along with former university colleague Matt Hollenstein. Both in their late 20s, the principals of Stewart Hollenstein have established an emerging practice, and teamed with Felicity’s father, architect Colin Stewart, to conceive the winning design.
“It was the only scheme to challenge the notion of placing a building in the Plaza, managing to put forward a strong argument for placing the Plaza over the Library, thereby providing both a building and a suitably scaled urban plaza for the future developments around the site, becoming a beacon and an oasis for the whole Green Square community,” stated the jury in their official report.
The jury, chaired by architect John Denton, consisted of architect Glenn Murcutt AO, American urban designer/landscape architect George Hargreaves, architect Rachel Neeson, librarian Sharan Harvey and buildability expert Stuart McCreery.
Jury chair John Denton said in a video posted by the City of Sydney that the winners “made a very bold step, which was to put [the library] essentially beneath ground – not completely beneath ground, but at a low level so that the open space could flow up over the top of the space and create a large open space. Basically [the winning design] gives the space back to Sydney; back to Green Square.”
Expected to draw a patronage of between 1000 and 1500 people per day, the Green Square Library and Plaza development is an $8 billion dollar project that hopes to act as a catalyst for residential and commercial development in the precinct. Within two decades, the 278-hectare site is expected to house 40,000 people – equivalent to the entire population of Dubbo.
“The City of Sydney have been able to put a competition together that has drawn people from all over the world to submit, and out of it we’ve got a local winner,” says Glenn Murcutt. “[The winning design] is not only a superb solution – it is going to be a wonderful scheme and a wonderful place to be for the people of Green Square.”
The City of Sydney has allocated $25 million for the library works, and a further $15 million for the public domain and plaza. Refinement of the design will continue this year, with construction planned to finish in 2017.