Woollahra Library is a bright, open space which features multitudes of beautiful green plantlife that mimics a treehouse and invites visitors to relax, interact and explore both books and nature.
In 2016, Woollahra Library in Sydney’s Double Bay was opened, presenting an innovative focus on knowledge, community, and a living green space. Designed by BVN, the library's key focal point is its stunning greenery, from greenwalls to cascading vertical gardens that fall from the highest level through organic-shaped voids that fill the space with natural light and colour. The greenery blends seamlessly with the library, as it is not only a nod to the heritage gardens of the library’s previous site, but also symbolises the library’s connection with nature and gardens, as both are places to grow, learn, and establish a community.
BVN’s Bill Dowzer says, "There's a revelation about coming through the building. It's not all in your face, you actually have to explore. It's almost like a treehouse." He continues in regards to how the plantlife has the greatest innovative impact, “One of the biggest messages in learning is to enjoy doing it and build that as an early message from day one. How architecture can actually contribute to that is really important."
The library was built with a new commercial and retail development and aims to combine this with nature in order to create a thriving community. Special nooks, secure spaces and open areas are scatthered throughout and are designed to attract patrons from all demographics at all hours of day, often even before opening hours due to its popularity. Some of the features include a play area, study centre, meeting area, work spaces, function centre, support centre and information centre, offering a place for a large variety of activities and programs to be held, and providing a range of resources for all visitors.
The essence of the library is the plantlife which is a key feature from every angle. From the nature-inspired children’s area which mimics a delightful underground treehouse, to the central spaces which are covered in green walls and delicately draped foliage. The Returns chute is nestled among a vibrant hanging garden, and the various reading spaces create a sense of “burrows” for children and adults alike to escape into their own imaginary world.
The greenery is perfectly offset by the rest of the library’s design. The harsh lines of the white, birch walls are smoothed thanks to the timber trim, the Aspen timber-slatted ceiling and the vibrant greenery, creating a clean, clear space that is warm and inviting. The light that filters through every level creates a sense of nature, exploration and depth, and creates an illusion of space.
The area is compact at 2000 sqm across only three levels. A flexible plan was created with specific zones arranged in order to maximise space potential and to cater to a variety of age groups, purposes and noise. The first level is intended for children to explore, read and play, designed to recreate the aspect of a lush garden with columns, rugs, and suspended paper birds that mimic a real garden. A vibrant red slide leads into a bright reading area for the kids, bordered with a colourful mural that encapsulates the feeling of a learning place inspired by the beauty of nature.
The second level is accessed by a wide staircase that functions not only as a simple walkway, but also as a place to sit and chat, and even as an amphitheatre for events and movies with a drop-down screen. This level is created with the “traditional library” in mind, as there you will find books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers, and all the ranges of seating that comes with it: tables, pods, armchairs, and private spaces. There is even a technology room that includes computers, PlayStations and iPads.
The third level features a calm, relaxed space for visitors to read, write and study in peace. A fireplace is the centrepiece which adds a cosy homeliness to the area. Meetings rooms, booths, tables and chairs feature here, allowing for all types of reading to take place.
Even the Librarians have become more innovative as they now wander the space with an iPad and phone to assist as needed, without the barrier of a desk and computer to separate them from the people.
The Woollahra Library emphasises people, rather than books. It is a destination for growth, interaction and exploration, all tied together by the beautiful foliage that links it to the natural world and allows for visitors to subliminally interact as a community with nature.