Text description provided by the architects. The existing Queensland State Library was redeveloped into a facility more than twice its original size through the reconfiguration of the existing building (10,000sqm) and provision of additional 12,000sqm of new space.
In addition to expanding existing facilities the design contains a broad array of new specialist components including: an Indigenous Knowledge Centre, critically controlled repositories, auditorium, triple A exhibition gallery, cafés, business/conference centre, informal gallery and expanded car park.
The Site Infrastructure Works for the northern expansion of the QCC includes 20,000 sqm of public open space, a new road system and underground car parking facilities.
The briefing and design process spanned a large and complex client group incorporating community and indigenous consultation. The Library itself has over 1,000 differing rooms and delivers 50 service programs simultaneously. Appropriately it is an institution subject to constant change. As the building collects differing staff groups on a single site for the first time, the Architects have been actively involved with organisational restructuring and change management.
In order for a re-housed cultural institution to authentically take its civic place, its procurement, as an exercise in civic conduct, would ideally reflect a cultured process. This project confirms the value of the difference between advocating on behalf of custodial knowledge and providing proscriptive services. Architects are obliged to be both guardians and participants in culture.
Diversity and intensity of democratic library usage required authentic porosity for the public despite the institution’s size and siting.
Public and Cultural Benefits
Profound compression/densification of the building footprint released land area for potential site configurations to enable future formation of parkland north of Montague road axis and a future (and diversifying) development site.
Provision of three public ‘rooms’ (additional to both brief and client expectations) for genuinely public use; of critical consequence to the immediate site and Brisbane itself which for a capital city is sparsely supplied with places for civic occasions.
Relationship of built form to context
Founding brief concept required new facilities to shift from existing QCC model of a ‘complex’ to a model based on integrated ‘urban fabric’. This anticipates simultaneous integration with and contest with the setting. Ambivalence has been treated as having aesthetic potential.
Moves included; allowance for eventual continuation of QAG water mall and memorable volumes, reiteration of the original building’s ‘terrace’ concept at numerous other scales, extension of existing characteristic ground plane/wall plane monolithic colouring, differing elevation concepts to support differing adjacent realm characteristics.
Organisation of the building, (five climates, five security levels, existing flawed planning, etc) is inherently complex, especially since it contains sub-addresses. Suggestive orientation and apparency of people to people, and of people to spaces, is given relentless priority.
Integration of allied disciplines
Client perceptions of the project shifted focus to the procurement dynamics ahead of disciplinary alliance. Key alliance was with Library tenants to enable joint participation in institutional transformation.
Procurement scenario and a period of extraordinary escalation costs (which were not allowed for in either budget or contract), prevent evaluation.
Strategic design initiatives included; utilisation of conventional construction techniques with minimal sub-contracts requiring high workmanship standards, utilisation of existing un-useable balconies and existing roof slab as new GFA, displacement of the bulk of circulation area into exterior minimally serviced space, compression of repository by designing for cubic instead of briefed square metres.
Sustainability. Not realistic under this form of procurement for the Architect to champion or facilitate ESD. Response to client and user needs. As site infrastructure commitments were clarified, covertly the Library was clearly required to yield shade, amenity and comfortable urban experiences on the public’s behalf.
Brief and Government expectations of the library to continue (with enhanced storage functionality after extension), as a minor player in the QCC, have possibly been given constructive provocation. In addition to its dedicated provisions, the site’s active hosting of events and even simple, comfortable occupation gives an optimistic fillip to the role of a Library in a Queensland setting. The building itself plays a part in this perceptual shift.