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  5. FJMT
  6. 2009
  7. Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT

Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT

  • 01:00 - 25 April, 2010
Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT
Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT, © John Gollings
© John Gollings

© Andrew Chung © John Gollings © John Gollings © John Gollings +33

  • Architects

  • Location

    405 Crown St, Surry Hills
  • Architects

    Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp
  • Project Team

    Richard Francis-Jones, Simon Barr, Lance White, Alison Jones, Misha De Moyer, James Perry, Josephine Turner, Peter Wise
  • Landscape Architects

    Matthew Todd, Mark Brandon
  • Contract Administrator

    Altus Page Kirkland
  • Builder

    WBHO Pro Build
  • Area

    2497.0 sqm
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

From the architect. This project is prominently located in the heart of Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney whose community is characterised by a diversity of age, income and cultural backgrounds. The architectural context is also diverse: residential apartments, terrace housing, shops and commercial/industrial premises vary in scale though their architectural style is predominantly Victorian. The site is very constrained, measuring just 25 by 28 metres and bound on three edges by roads: Crown Street, the main street of Surry Hills, to the east and two residential streets to the south and west.

The project’s brief was developed in close consultation with the very active local community. The key approach that emerged from these discussions was that the community wanted a facility that everyone could share. Rather than only a library or a community centre or childcare centre, it became clear that it was important to have all of these facilities together in one building, in one place. In this way the building became a truly shared place where the whole community could meet and use in different ways. Important, too, was for the building to represent and reflect the community’s values.

In response we developed what for Sydney is a new type of public building. It is not a singular typology, for which there are many precedents, but a hybrid public building that is many different things in one: a library/resource centre, community centre and childcare centre all integrated into one modest building and accessible by all.

Transparency became an architectural theme at many levels, allowing an inviting and welcoming building that is accessible and open to public view. At the same time it was important that the building was not merely ‘transparent’, or only expose what is accommodated within, but that it represented and embodied the values of the community. Accessibility, openness, transparency and sustainability were key values as was a general sense of aspiration.

© John Gollings
© John Gollings

From our early studies, four integrated formal elements emerged: a new simple open space and platform, a prismatic glass environmental atrium, a suspended ‘U’ shaped timber form and a transitional foyer space.

On the southern edge, the Collins Street road closure was converted to a modest public park with a raised grass platform. This new space extended the function of the building and reasserted itself as a public place.

The tapered glass atrium evolved in response to the ambitious sustainability objectives of the project, and equally to the sense of layered transparency and the project’s aspirational quality. The series of glass prisms creates an open, transparent façade, akin to an open dolls house, and addresses the new open space so that all the different activities of the centre are visible and displayed, encouraging participation.

© John Gollings
© John Gollings

The timber ‘U’ form embraces the prismatic environmental atrium and orient both towards the south and the new little park. The ‘solid’ sections of this timber form are made of automated louvre systems that filter and control sunlight and view. This warm timber form is lifted above the ground to create transparency and accessibility.

The foyer space is a lower transitional form that mediates the scale of the building against the adjacent shops while creating a welcoming, transparent entry. Suspended cloud-like roof profiles bring daylight into this space and extend out above the street to mark the entrance.

© John Gollings
© John Gollings

The environmental atrium has become emblematic of the centre and clearly identifies the new building and public place. Looking from the new park through this prism façade, the functions of the building are apparent.

The library on the ground and lower-ground levels contains a diverse borrowing collection of approximately 30,000 items, local history collections, some reference material and public access computers. The community centre on level one comprises a function facility for 125 people and adjoining verandah, meeting rooms, commercial teaching kitchen, Neighbourhood Centre administration offices and amenities. On level two, the childcare centre provides accommodation for 26 children in two groups (1–2 and 2–5 years) and includes an outdoor landscaped play space with automatic shade roof.

A key project objective was to establish a new Australian standard of excellence for environmentally sustainable design in civic buildings. The building incorporates many sustainable design innovations and seeks to integrate these into the architecture and explore the expressive potential of such systems. This is most evident in the environmental atrium.

The environmental atrium’s series of triangular, tapering airshafts draw in clean outside air and passively cool it. Experimental use of plants to bio-filter pollutants is integrated in the gardens of specially selected plants within these glass enclosures. Natural daylight is filtered through these layers of glass and garden and flow deep into the interiors.

© John Gollings
© John Gollings

The array of environmental initiatives intrinsic to the design also include a thermal labyrinth for passive filtering and tempering of the air, solar-tracking timber louvre systems, automated fabric shading, mixed mode ventilation, extensive photovoltaic array, geothermal cooling bores, green roof, rainwater collection and recycling, and sustainable material selection.

Computerised building management and control systems (BMS) automatically monitor and control the internal environmental conditions of the building, adjusting the ventilation and sunshade louvres throughout the day to control heat load, light and shade, and switching lights on and off when required. The BMS also monitors and records both electrical and hydraulic systems to maximise the environmental efficiency of the building and identify system faults.

The centre has been embraced by the local community since its opening. It is a welcoming community place for all ages and all social groups. It provides facilities that embody the values of equity of access to information and resources that are essential to building communities.

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT" 25 Apr 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Arq. Mauricio Cueto · May 04, 2012

Increíble solución bioarquitectónica, realmente creo que el uso de sistemas pasivos, desde el diseño puede dar...

ALPOLIC Materials · February 02, 2012

What a great project! Surry Hills Library and Community Centre by FJMT via @archdaily #MCM

Elia Capodarca · April 13, 2011

Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | ArchDaily via @archdaily

Evan Troxel · December 16, 2010

Whoa. This library in Sydney (where I will live one day) is amazing.

Alessandra Bernardi · May 11, 2010

Reading: "Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | ArchDaily"( )

S.M · May 08, 2010

As a resident of Surry hills and a current Architecture student I’m quite surprised at the praise this building is receiving. Yes it fulfills exceptional green credentials. However the louver system is never functioning and is always under repair. The plants in the glass side wall to filter the air are always almost dead and I have a sneaking suspicion they are often replaced. (Not to mention the millions of dollars put into research and development for that one system, which is a wider issue of sustainability that I feel is often overlooked) therefore its green capabilities are not being fulfilled and are therefore null until systems are de-bugged or replaced.
Its relationship to the street, granted, is clear engaging and quite attractive. But in the wider context of the area and even the buildings around it the building falls utterly short in terms of aesthetic interest and sympathy to surrounding forms and patterns (building height, horizontal lines, materials, colours) I personally support a stark aesthetic contrast to surrounding areas, but the aesthetic needs to be an innovative, exciting and/or engaging. The tired Sydney Modernism is once again poking its ugly head out in this project and the vast majority of the Surry Hills community do not appreciate it.

Surry Hills Too · May 14, 2010 05:21 PM

I live in Surry Hills too, but I completely disagree.
I (and everyone I know) love this building.
I walk past it twice a day and the plants are alive and kicking.
And where does it say that 'millions of dollars (were) put into research and development for that one system'? What a load of rubbish.

And what do you mean by 'tired Sydney Modernism'? Got any other examples?
If this building is an examplar of this genre, then I'd like to see a lot more of it quite frankly.
This building is head and shoulders above most Sydney architecture.

Olesya Balashova · May 07, 2010

RT @bluevertical Surry Hills Library and Community Centre by FJMT #architecture #modern *what a sharp community centre

bluevertical · May 07, 2010

Surry Hills Library and Community Centre by FJMT #architecture #interiordesign #modern *what a sharp community centre

JF Santana · May 07, 2010
Fivestar liquid limestone · August 31, 2012 02:22 PM

Nice and great page you have here thank you for sharing.

Natália Queiroz · May 05, 2010

LOVE!!! | Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | #architecture #bioclimatic #arquitetura #bioclimatica

Natália Queiroz · May 05, 2010

LOVE!! | Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | #architecture #bioclimatic #arquitetura #bioclimatica

Natália Queiroz · May 05, 2010

LOVE!! | Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | #architecture #bioclimatic #arquitetura #bioclimatica

Mies van der Rohe · May 05, 2010

RT @arnomart Reading: "Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | ArchDaily"( ) I really like aussie arch

Arno M · May 05, 2010

Reading: "Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT | ArchDaily"( )

windzerg · May 03, 2010

Children is the key.

Jaclyn · April 28, 2010

Handsome staircase! Nice natural lighting for interior!

Nicholas Patten · April 28, 2010

Surry Hills Library and Community Centre.

Charles · April 27, 2010

Excellent design. Clear illustration and manifestation of the integration of climate, culture and context. (((:

Patrick · April 27, 2010

Wow, what a great looking building. I like the quality of the spaces outside and especially inside. The attention to detail and the connection to the immediate environment from the inside really creates that feeling of quality.

Christian · April 26, 2010

Incredible work. Great Details!

hao · April 26, 2010


Metropolis magazine · April 26, 2010

RT @grahamcowen: Great building. RT @archdaily Surry Hills Library and Community Centre / FJMT

Ballista Magazine · April 25, 2010

It's interesting that the architect has chosen to express some of the connections while concealing others; for example, the staircase is very ambiguous (albeit beautiful) while the mechanisms of the operable shades are clearly expressed and beautifully detailed. I'm not making an argument for one or the other, its just a very unique architectural approach. Great project though!

J · April 25, 2010

Excellent design. Clear illustration and manifestation of the integration of climate, culture and context. (((:


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