In December of 2019, the historic State Library Victoria in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia reopened its doors to the public, after completion of an ambitious $88.1 million restoration and redevelopment that has increased public space by 40% and seating by 70%.
Nearly five years in the making, this renewal of Australia’s oldest and busiest public library responds to the changing needs of the Library’s growing community by providing new spaces, services and better access to knowledge.
With the generous support of the Victorian Government, six major donors and thousands of public contributions, the Library now stands poised to deliver a world-leading State Library to the people of Victoria.
President of the Library Board of Victoria, John Wylie AM, said the reopening marks a milestone moment in the Library’s 163-year history: “This is a momentous day for State Library Victoria. We’re thrilled to be opening the doors to our reimagined Library to the public after a five-year $88.1 million redevelopment.”
“The new look Library will have 40% more space, 70% more seats, a whole range of great new services, in a beautiful building that mixes the absolute best of the old and the new. And as it’s always been, it’s absolutely free,” he added.
“This redevelopment would not have been possible without the generous support of the Victorian Government and a host of generous donors. Everyone is welcome to come and use and enjoy our Library. It’s one of the most popular in the world for good reason. And it’s just gotten even better,” Wylie concluded.
Vision 2020 continues the Library’s proud heritage of reinventing its spaces and services to remain the epicentre for education, ideas, creativity and debate in Victoria.
The new spaces are:
- A revitalized Swanston Street entrance, featuring a new foyer and digital technology that keeps visitors up to date with what’s on where at the Library;
- The Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, the Library’s original reading room and one of Melbourne’s most breathtaking heritage spaces, which will act as a reading room by day and an opulent event venue by night;
- Hansen Hall, supported by the Hansen Little Foundation, a vibrant new collaborative space to meet, work and connect
- The Quad, the ground floor of the Library, connecting all four of its activity courtyards, with the information centre at its heart;
- Conversation Quarter, endowed by the Hansen Little Foundation, a state-of-the-art public forum for lectures, conferences and workshops;
- Ideas Quarter, home to StartSpace, a new, member service enabled by the Christine Christian Foundation and a dedicated co-working space for early stage start-ups and small businesses;
- Create Quarter, featuring spaces for group work and school programs, with pop-up talks and events; and,
- Pauline Gandel Children’s Quarter, supported by Gandel Philanthropy, a purpose-built space for children and families to read, learn and play, with an associated program of activities.
These new public spaces are in addition to the redeveloped Vision 2020 spaces that opened in September 2018 – including the Russell Street entrance, Newspapers and Family History Reading Room, Arts Reading Room and Victoria Gallery – and complement the Library’s other existing public spaces: the domed La Trobe Reading Room and Dome Galleries, Redmond Barry Reading Room, Heritage Collections Reading Room and Cowen Gallery.
The Vision 2020 redevelopment design was led by an international, award-winning team combining the talents of Australasian design firm Architectus with Scandinavia’s Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. The construction work was carried out by Built, one of Australia’s largest private construction groups with extensive experience in complex heritage refurbishment.
Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, said the Library’s opening is a gift for all Victorians to enjoy: “State Library Victoria has always been famed and loved – it was one of the first free public libraries in the world and remains among the most visited, welcoming almost 2 million visitors a year. This once-in-a-generation transformation builds on our Library’s 163-year legacy, providing free access to world-class resources, fantastic new spaces and creative technologies. It sets a new benchmark for libraries everywhere.”
Vision 2020 is an $88.1 million project funded by $60.4 million from the Victorian Government, with more than $27.7 million raised through philanthropic support. The project has been delivered by Creative Victoria and Development Victoria.
All photos courtesy of State Library Victoria.