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Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, Melbourne, Australia

Wednesday 26 Oct 2011

Vividly coloured library in Dame Edna territory

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Award Entry

New Moonee Ponds library uses trompe l'oeil and lurid imagery to redefine the ‘Oz’ suburb 

Form (Twin volumes + covered way):
The building form is defined by twin conjoined volumes - one high for the taller and much larger Library space and the other low, mostly containing cellular rooms, plus a foyer. The new building is surrounded by adjacent car-parking and landscaping and linked to an existing upgraded gymnasium.

Sustainability (Low energy):
The building was conceived as being low energy, naturally ventilated, heated and cooled, thermally efficient and utilizing appropriate materials with low or no off-gassing. The saw tooth roof form allows maximum south light with no sun penetration into the Library.

Contextualism (Eclectic, ethnically diverse neighbourhood):
The site is a highly public one. Opposite  is a McDonald's restaurant en route to the local shopping strip, including rows of brightly coloured garages, and the adjacent intersection carries high volumes of traffic. The design reflects its eclectic neighbourhood and attempts to recall atypical Anglo Saxon imagery for its mostly immigrant local residents.

Special qualities (change of brief during construction):
The specific building type - library - evolved in an unusual manner. The facility was originally briefed as a Community Centre with two principle components; a 200 seat flat floor Multipurpose Hall for hire by local community groups and associated staff areas, foyer, amenities and flexible, wireless classrooms.

Mid-way through construction the brief changed to a Community Library. The high ceilinged south lit MPR simply adapted into a reading and reference area, while support spaces generally maintained the same functions. One classroom was converted to Computer Lab.

Originality (Middle Eastern references):
Deliberate choices were made of brightly coloured Trespa panelling as the primary cladding and the feature end wall palette of ceramic tile, timber, powder coat steel, alucobond and fritted glass to reflect the material choices and vivid colourings of the largely Middle Eastern users. The architects felt strongly that public acknowledgment of the built form aspirations of these cultures by Melbourne designers had been largely ignored.

Innovation (Quoting of Humphries and Arkley):
Materials and colours were chosen from examples amongst the local building stock. The building's innovative iconography reinterprets the lurid colourings and exaggerated realities of well-known Australian artists, Barry Humphries and Howard Arkley in their depictions of the ‘Oz' suburb.

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