The wave of state-of-the-art public libraries – less academic bolthole, more social hub – being designed by architecture firms shows no signs of stopping. Elegant, impressive, in tune with their environments, here are five of our favourites.

1. Craigieburn Library by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp

In 2014, Craigieburn Library, in outer north Melbourne, won the inaugural international Public Library of the Year Award. its modern construction is characterised by open, flexible space, with rammed earth and timbers helping it blend with the natural landscape. It was designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT), an architectural practice that has become something of a trailblazer in terms of game-changing library design. FJMT’s CV also includes the award-winning Surry Hills Library in Sydney and the Library at the Dock in Melbourne, which looks more like a modern art gallery than a library.

2. Geelong Library and Heritage Centre (GLHC), by ARM Architecture

Nicknamed ‘The Dome’, the GLHC is in fact a sphere; partially buried with its surface cut away to fit in between the Geelong Gallery and the Geelong peace memorial. Designed by ARM Architecture, the cubistic and colourful library was the ALIA Members’ Choice Winner at the 2017 Australian Library Design Awards.

3. The Helensvale Branch Library and CCYC by Complete Urban in association with Lahz Nimmo Architects

Designed by Complete Urban in association with Lahz Nimmo Architects, the Helensvale Branch Library and CCYC responds to the climate of south-east Queensland. Clever fixtures include rooftop solar panels to supply hot water, rainwater collected in underground tanks to be reused, and a naturally ventilated and lit indoor plaza that offers reprieve from the hot Queensland sun.

4. City of Perth Library by Kerry Hill Architects

Design-wise, the redevelopment of Perth’s historic centre – the Cathedral and Treasury Precinct – was led by Kerry Hill Architects. The jewel in its crown is the gleaming new public library that opened in March last year and scooped the top prize at the 2017 ALIA Library Design Awards. Seven storeys high and based around a pure circular form, with a striated effect that emulates the pages of a book, the contemporary design includes a ceiling artwork by a local artist depicting WA native flora, fauna and history.

5. Woollahra Library by BVN

You’ll find a sky-high atrium lined with creepers upon entering the new Woollahra Library in Sydney’s Double Bay. Architecture firm BVN took cues from the local library’s previous location in nearby Blackburn Gardens and has now brought the garden inside. Located in a shopping strip with plenty of good cafes on its periphery, visitors are invited to wander in with their coffee and browse like they would its neighbouring boutique stores. BVN’s design of the new Marrickville Library, also in Sydney and slated to open in 2020, will be given a similarly stylish and community-focused treatment.


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