Geelong Library and Heritage Centre

Geelong, VIC
Photo © John Gollings
Photo © Emma Cross
Photo © Emma Cross
Photo © Emma Cross
Photo © John Gollings
Photo © Emma Cross
Photo © John Gollings
ARM Architecture

This building attracted 10,000 people during its opening weekend. After just six months, it was recording an astounding 9500 visits per week.


It is proving to be exactly what our client had hoped: a busy community gathering place and techno-resource centre for residents of one of Australia’s fastest growing regional cities. Its community is socio-economically diverse.


This contemporary library inhabits both the past and the future. Its form pays homage to the ideals of self-improvement, knowledge and curiosity expressed in the domes of great reading rooms such as the State Library Victoria. But the eroded sphere also conjures a future that is innovative and high-tech.


GLHC slots in between existing heritage-sensitive buildings: the Geelong Gallery and the 1926 Geelong Peace Memorial. The building is also part of its parkland neighbour. The western façade, fronting historic Johnstone Park, appears as if eroded by some natural process. Like a grotto or the entry to Fingal’s Cave, the façade breaks into a crystalline alcove, allowing the garden into its zone.


With future trends in library use and technology unknown, we have designed GLHC to be flexible. In particular, we have allowed space for generous IT infrastructure for the public and for an increasingly automated system of returns and sorting. Where traditionally libraries banned eating and talking, GLHC has elements of the community cyber café. There is an 80-seat café, a community gathering space, a gallery space, a 250-person function room and whole floor for children and youth.


The Heritage Centre on floor three now houses Geelong’s heritage collection, Victoria’s biggest regional collection of public and private records. All live in a vast compactus and the entire floor is compliant with the State Archives Place of Deposit storage specifications. The supervised reading room has smart tables and digital microfilm readers.


The roof is clad with a geodesic tile array: 332 hexagons in 19 different sizes arranged around a single pentagram. (The skin of a soccer ball is arranged in a similar way.) Tiles, coloured in a palette of four muted browns that complement the adjacent Peace Memorial, are graded in a heat-map pattern to accentuate the crest of the dome.

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