Designing the library

The architect behind the Perth’s iconic new library gave an insight into its design process at a talk held in the library earlier this month.

720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne
720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne

Patrick Kosky of Kerry Hill Architects guided us through the design process in a breeze thirty minute presentation accompanied by sketches, plans and images of the design and build.

Early in the design process, they settled on the basic shape of a ‘truncated cylinder’ – truncated referring to the sloping roof that allows northern sunlight into the plaza behind the library.

For a very modern library there are references – ‘precedents’ – from libraries in other centuries. The circular reading room and the ‘painted’ ceiling recall libraries many of us have seen only in American movies.

Accomodating library services across five levels and making the whole work, seamlessly, and intuitively for the visitor must have been a challenge. Kosky noted that library staff embraced the change, moving the library service beyond a ‘repository of objects’.  Discussions with staff and a library consultant enabled a ‘logical stacking of functions’ across the levels. The Children’s Library – a faintly magical space of light and air with it’s own tall tree growing among the young readers – is acoustically separated from the reading room and other levels below. The space with the fewest books and the most tech is that for young adults – at the top and away from everyone.

The reading room itself looks up through the three-level void to the artwork installed on the ceiling – a remarkable interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by artist Andrew Nicholls.

Connecting the levels is the winding staircase, clad in ‘fins’ of granite. Through these fins we glimpse views of the Perth streetscape we haven’t seen before. Walking quietly through the library you keep discovering new views and interesting spaces. As a library should be, it’s a place for the curious.

I haven’t mentioned the auditorium, the history centre, the green wall, or the roof terrace with its unique view over Perth Cathedral to the river. If you haven’t visited Perth recently, The City of Perth Library is a reason to make the effort.

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