Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Pritzker Prize winner Glenn Murcutt, today announced the successful entrant in the Green Square Library design competition. Owen Lynch reports
February 26th, 2013
A distinct sense of place and a spirit of community engagement pervade the winning proposal for Sydney’s newest, most ambitious public precinct.
Newcomers Felicity Stewart and Matt Hollenstein working with Colin Stewart Architects presented a subterranean scheme that gave back public space and communal facilities on it’s ‘rooftop’ to the surrounding Green Square Town Centre, part of the broader $8 billion Green Square corridor urban renewal masterplan – stretching from Circular Quay to Sydney Airport.
“The winning scheme for Green Square is an inspired and unconventional vision for our new library and it will become a part of our growing community,” enthuses Ms Moore.
“We fielded 167 submissions from 29 countries, showing that The City has a growing international reputation for fostering good design.”
A member of the competition jury comprising of eminent local and international industry leaders, Glenn Murcutt praised the young, winning team’s innovative and socially minded response to the design brief:
“Of course this scheme is outside, in some ways, of the brief. And most great buildings tend to go outside the brief. Like the Opera House. One of the problems with writing a brief is to actually understand the real potential of the site,” he explains “…[but] it is incumbent upon the designer to actually understand the nature of the place: Place making.”
With $25 million allocated to library works and a further $15 million designated to the integrated public domain and plaza, the site is central to a residential and commercial precinct earmarked to house almost 7000 residents over 14-hectares.
Mr Murcutt’s address went on to commended Clover Moore and the City of Sydney for its anonymous competition led approach to the project:
“One of the most important things that comes out of a competition like this are new faces…you have brought the possibility of the finest work available to Sydney through this competition, it is now incumbent upon The City to be able to follow this through, and give the architects room to move, the freedom within the constraints to be able to achieve the best they are able.”
When pressed on the strategy behind submerging or “sinking” the library beneath an urban square: “we wanted to put the people first, above all else,” explained Felicity Stewart.
“From the very beginning we tried to see this through the eyes of the people that would be living in this place… it became critical to us that the plaza provided a semi-domestic environment in some cases.”
With plans integrating an amphitheatre, projection towers and loose furniture to encourage community ownership, the space is intended to act as an extension of the library beneath with community book exchange shelves, wireless internet access outdoors and solar powered recharging stations. The incorporation of grassed tram corridors through the precinct further defines the project as a destination and civic hub. With a four-year construction schedule the development isn’t expected to be ready until 2017.
Acknowledging the promising career that lies ahead of the two project designers, both only in their late twenties, Murcutt sagely offered:
“What a way to start a profession. Winning an international competition like this, but as I have said to them: this project should turn out to be a remarkable work, but do remember that it makes every subsequent work vulnerable.”
Green Square Library
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