Architecture and design | AlburyCity
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Architecture and design

The award-winning Albury LibraryMuseum features engaging interactive exhibitions, reading and research in one location. Designed by nationally renowned architects Ashton Ragatt McDougall, the facility is Australia’s first library and museum under one roof.

The Albury LibraryMuseum was the first combined facility of its kind in Australia and opened in July 2007.

Local company, Zauner Constructions, built the award-winning design of internationally renowned architects, Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), whose credentials include the impressive National Museum of Australia.

The LibraryMuseum employs forms that shift between figure and abstraction. The letter X is a sign that carries many meanings and provides a specific naming function in the museum. X also happens to be a generic structural figure common to architecture in the form of struts, bracing and drawing.

It is a public building with a public role and presence, but one where parents seem relaxed about letting children wander from books to exhibitions to computers. This new type of community lounge room has three potential public entrances. The main entrance faces a street corner. A tall glazed facade is set back from a sequence of black steel columns supporting a lofty veranda, while tracing a gentle path to the main entry. This sequence of columns, roof, mullions and ground plane is beautiful to walk through. The columns are expressively Miesian in their physical, material presence, yet tall, dark and light enough to appear stretched as the roof rises across the elevation. The window mullions are timber, deep in profile and stained black.

The striking west façade on Kiewa Street draws on the architecture of the 1884 iron railway bridge over the Murray River. The large crosses, clad in aluminium, progressively narrow to take the appearance of a bend in the river.

The steel fascia is discontinuous, its edge sliced back into itself at major roof junctions. Along the north facade, the slices are deep and wide enough to have produced a sequence of individual roof overhangs (or horizontal castellation). These hover above deep recesses between sloping concrete walls. Trees growing from within these walls reach for the gaps above.

The foyer is the hub of the facility and draws on the idea of a hangar or shed, having originally been the site of the Robbins and Porter garage. The library and museum form two wings, extending from the foyer in an L-shape.
Ceiling heights recede from seven metres in the foyer to three metres in the Kidspace, imitating the contours of the surrounding hills; in the same way, the floor in Kidspace rises in wide steps to create low amphitheatre seating.
Lighting suspended between ceiling panels playfully suggests night driving on the Hume Freeway. This playful aspect is continued with the secreted addition of two letter Zs by Zauner Construction – see if you can locate a small red Z inside the building and another on the Kiewa Street facade.

The library and museum converge in a double-height volume between the main entry and staircase. An accessible balcony affords a view (and a sense of ownership) over the library and foyer. Its white ceiling rises from the northern end of the library, carrying with it a series of strong black bands marked with the dashed lines of fluorescent tubes, a suggestive image for those who have driven the Hume Highway at night. These bands also drop cabling down to the library and work areas. The Infozone located at the elbow of the building houses programs and objects common to both library and museum: technology, public work space, drawers holding historic maps, etc.

Sustainability features include solar hot water, rainwater harvesting for toilets and landscape irrigation, energy-rated light fittings and equipment.

A striking emblematic facade faces a T-intersection on Kiewa Street. The facade is deep and patterned with a series of X forms that appear to contract laterally from left to right. The surfaces of its diamond-shaped recesses are orange-red. Its form comes from the structure of a disused nineteenth-century steel rail bridge crossing the Murray River. The facade’s top and bottom plates assist reading it as a truss (and as an extended Roman numeral). The bridge’s geometry was mapped onto a cylinder and its image then flattened, producing the effect of compression across the facade. Conversely, it is understood as a thick slab from which diamonds have been subtracted, adding to the architect’s series of subtractive volumes.

The library area uses natural lighting, boldly coloured wood paneling and the lines of the ceiling to create a bright, open space that is the living room of the city. The mezzanine level, accessed via lift or stairs, allows you to take in the impressive space.
The river theme continues into the forecourt where the paving forms the currents of the river. Islands in the river are represented by raised grass beds and tree plantings.
The Swift Street wall forms the levees and embankments of the river, with trees planted as a symbolic gesture against erosion.
The warm red timber paneling in the stairwell and internal walls takes its inspiration from the Murray River Red Gums and other vegetation.
The museum wing comprises three interlocking galleries featuring coved cornices reminiscent of railway carriage interiors. The oversized cornices create an intimacy in the viewing spaces.
Curved, elongated display cabinets through the middle of the Crossing Place exhibition are symbolic of the Murray River.
The corrugated design and bands of green on the eastern elevation (facing QEII Square) reflect the undulation of levee banks.

Recognition

  • Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Award for Public Architecture 2008
  • AIA (Victorian Architecture Awards) Award for Public Architecture 2008
  • COLORBOND Award for Steel Architecture (Vic.) 2008.
  • Featured among other outstanding architectural designs from around the world in a book called Cultural Centres: Architecture 1990-2011 by Cecilia Bione (ISBN 9788864130026) (shelf location 725 BIO)
Come together at the library

Borrow from our collections of books, DVDs, e-books and magazines; browse the internet on our computers, access free wifi, attend exciting exhibitions and programs, and meet up with friends for a coffee at Retro Lane Café.

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