Innovative Learning

With the recent opening in Rundle Place of the new Adelaide City Council City Library, Hassell shows off its design for the library of the future.

With the recent opening in Rundle Place of the new Adelaide City Council City Library, Hassell shows off its design for the library of the future.

Library design has undoubtedly become one of the most exciting areas in interior architecture in recent years. Rapid digitalisation has shifted the role and identity of these hubs of learning, making the playing field rich for innovation. With the opening last year of Europe’s biggest public library it would seem that anything is possible. Its architects, the Dutch practice Mecanoo, are hailing the palatial Library of Birmingham as the ‘library of the future’, but this isn’t to say it’s a one-size-fits-all template. Adelaide City Council opened its new City Library in February, proving the library of the future also comes in an intelligently modest package. For Hassell’s Adelaide studio it was an opportunity to bring their extensive research and development in the area to fruition. In terms of briefing, the architects sat down with key stakeholders, including library staff, to brainstorm ideas and concepts over an intense two-and-a-half days. The resulting vision statement is an unabashedly people-focused strategy that has community at its heart. Its mission is best expressed in the ‘plug in to the pop up’ catchphrase Hassell Associate Yan-Yan Ho introduced at the project’s inception. “It refers to making digital technologies available to anyone who’s interested in learning about them,” she explains. “As well as getting people that might otherwise be disengaged from the community to ‘plug’ into something.” This idea of social sustainability is strong and supports the library’s belief in lifelong learning and knowledge sharing. The concept also refers to the flexibility of the space, which functions in much the same way as a temporary ‘pop-up’ would. Two thirds of the 1900sqm City Library is actually ‘people space’ intended for events, functions, seminars, exhibitions and training. The self-contained meeting rooms, internet hub, innovation lab and digital hub allow for groups to congregate and collaborate. It means the library now has the resources to host artists-in-residence and partner with organisations such as ANAT, creating a lively and fun environment for learning. Perhaps the project’s most resounding design expression, however, is the foyer. This generous entry features a handsome blade ceiling above a ‘self check and return’ kiosk, café and ample seating. The impressive Studio One is also located here and exemplifies the interior’s capacity to evolve and change. With two walls that fold back completely it further opens up the space, providing the perfect setting for larger scale openings and launches. It’s the most innovative aspect of the project and was informed by Ho’s overarching ‘one element many forms’ design concept. “We’ve used the idea of origami as a metaphor not only for how people use the space, but for the actual physical space itself,” she says. “Everything in this interior has two purposes, so a shelf is also a wall, a divider is also used for display and all white walls are projectable and able to be written on.” It’s smart design at its best – even down to the modular joinery units and choice of GECA certified furniture – and sets a fine standard for re-thinking library design both nationally and internationally. adelaidecitycouncil.com hassellstudio.com

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