Parts of the State Library of Victoria that have been closed for years are going to be reopened to the public as part of a major $88.1 million upgrade, the library announced today.
The Queen’s Hall, which is part of the original 1856 build, has been closed for 15 years. The hall will reopen as a reading room during the day and as an events space at night. It will host everything from weddings to political debates, the library says.
Melburnians had a first glimpse of some of these spaces during Melbourne Music Week 2016 when the library acted as the festival’s hub. For the first (and likely last) time, a young man drank beer out of his shoe under the Dome of the La Trobe Reading Room.
Debauchery aside, the event was a huge success. The diverse music program, from industrial-noise pioneers Severed Heads, to a showcase of local R&B and hip-hop showed the potential of the new spaces beyond their traditional functions.
An extensive refurbishment and a reconfiguration of Queens Hall will include stripping some walls back to reveal the original paintwork and repairing the original timber herringbone floor.
The Russell Street entrance, closed since 2002, will also reopen, making space for a cafe, a Readings bookstore and a co-working space. A new Children’s Quarter will be built in a space between four older additions to the library building, built in different historical periods.
Overall there will be an increase in public space of 40 per cent.
The library has enlisted Australian firm Architectus to oversee the redesign alongside architects Schmidt, Hammer, Lassen (SHL) from Denmark. Both firms have extensive experience designing contemporary institutional buildings and worked together on the design of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and Christchurch New Central Library. Architectus is responsible for GOMA in Queensland and SHL designed state-of-the-art libraries around the world including in Shanghai and Copenhagen.
The overhaul is part of the State Library’s Vision2020 plan, which also includes the new $8 million Victoria Gallery dedicated to the history of the state.
To fund the library upgrade the State Government has pledged $60.4 million, contributing $2 for every $1 raised through philanthropy.
Donations to date have reached $21.8 million, with large contributions from Maria and Allan Myers, the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation.
The remaining $5.9million will be sought through a public fund raising campaign.
Construction will start in July 2017 and is due for completion by 2020.