29 October 2012

Green Square Library competition

In August 2012, Crone Partners entered an open competition for a library in the newly revived Green Square development in Sydney. The competition proposal deals with a large set of complex economic, social-political and environmental issues.

With communities wanting more programmes attached to their local libraries, a library must deal with current social and environmental constraints to get the most economical solution from its contexts. To maximise the amount of sunlit areas across the site, the proposal is built to the ‘winter lunch time solar envelope’ while subtracting the existing site constraints in order to minimise its impact upon overshadowing of the site from its already dense context. This maintains the sites functionality not only as a library but as a series of public and civic spaces for use by the community. Further to maintain compliance with the brief area requirement, the building is lightly extruded past the solar plane to generate difference in light and shade, allowing for a variety of programmatic opportunities across the site. For example the outdoor amphitheatre receives the maximum amount of winter sun while the modest extrusions also provide shade during summer.

The public domain for the Green Square Town Centre Plaza will be largely formed by a rich network of public spaces at ground level and on the rooftop of the new library with an emphasis on the pedestrian experience.

The design reinforces the future fine-grain network of the Green Square development by: Creating distinct landscaping moments such as a central plaza, ‘Ecological Urban Stream’, amphitheatre, civic lawns, café terraces, promenades, orchards and sky gardens. These provide a range of spaces for passive, active, programmed and un-programmed activities, generating a strong sense of ‘place’ that befits the location and makes the best use of the natural and man-made environments. By using ecological corridors to improve the value of the natural environment through water filtration and reuse, and most importantly integrating a public transport corridor with pedestrian and cycle networks to provide a truly multi-modal transportation hub.

Libraries are currently not self-sustainable economic models. This puts a lot of pressure on local government funding unless libraries have alternative methods of revenue. Therefore it is essential that libraries have increased leasable area and profitable community services. To deal with these future requirements the library programme is lifted up to the 1st and 2nd floors of the building in order to increase the amount of communal and commercial rentable area, thus future proofing the library against possible future funding restraints.

With libraries now being centrepieces of urban development, the importance of how programme is arranged to deal with a series of socio-political, functional and environmental issues is inescapable. The proposal therefore creates controlled library book spaces floating throughout the building in order to allow cross-ventilation and openness to the more flexible spaces whilst maintaining humidity control to protect the more delicate media and books.

The building’s form and orientation creates an iconic ‘book-end’ to the site which acts as a noise barrier to Botany Road. The siting strategy also shields the cultural plaza and amphitheatre spaces – both visually and acoustically – from surrounding traffic and noise, while the exposed western façade provides signage opportunities for the library and plaza. The building’s overhang at level one provides shelter to the platform space for the future transport corridor as well as framing the library entry along the building spine.

A north-south pedestrian through site link acts as a key nodal point as it is positioned adjacent to the transport platforms, library entry, urban stream and central event space/amphitheatre. The continuous glu-lam timber structure and glazed façade helps to activate the northern edge of the site by creating a visual connection between the library space and the colonnade to the north.

The library’s laneway mirrors the northern colonnade and creates a publicly desirable space in what would otherwise be considered the back face of the building.

Image 1 & 4 courtesy of Jonathan Chambers.