State Library Victoria has opened the first of its redeveloped spaces as part of Vision 2020, an ambitious $88.1 million transformation that will increase public space by 40 percent and seating by 70 percent.
Two new reading rooms were unveiled along with a dedicated special events venue supported by a state-of-the-art production kitchen, and a vibrant new lounge and meeting space, which is also home to a 60 percent-larger Readings bookshop and new cafe, Guild.
This shared space, designed for working, collaborating and relaxing, will also feature a large-scale original artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith, spanning a 29×5-metre wall.
The design for Vision 2020 was led by multi-award winning Australasian firm, Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, one of Scandinavia’s most recognised architectural practices.
Formerly housing the Melbourne Museum from 1906 to 1997 and the NGV from 1999 to 2002, the redeveloped sites are now accessed by two new entrances – the historic Russell Street entrance, which was closed for more than a decade, and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street.
A new, world-class exhibition gallery, the Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, will also open in May 2019 as part of Vision 2020.
President of the Library Board of Victoria John Wylie says the opening marks an exciting milestone in the once-in-a-generation redevelopment of Australia’s oldest and busiest public library.
“The Library is thrilled to open the first of its transformed spaces, which feature world-class design and allow us to reimagine what a library can be,” Wylie says.
“Visitors are at the heart of everything the Library does and we can’t wait to see people using these magnificent new Library facilities, whether they are researching the collection, collaborating with peers, browsing Readings bookshop or meeting friends for coffee.”
Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley says: “This visionary project will ensure our State Library continues to be a welcoming and inspiring place for all Victorians, as it has been for the past 162 years.
“State Library Victoria is responding to the needs of the community by opening up more of this beautiful, iconic building to the public – providing additional reading rooms, public spaces and function capacity.
“We’re now at the halfway point of this landmark project and this is our first look at the stunning transformation of State Library Victoria.”
From today the Russell Street entrance and accessible entrance on La Trobe Street are the main entry points for Library visitors.
The Swanston Street entrance and ground floor are now closed for construction, reopening next spring when the Vision 2020 redevelopment is complete.
The $88.1 million project is funded by $60.4 million from the Victorian Government, with the remainder raised through philanthropic support.
Photography: Patrick Rodriguez