Green Square Library & Plaza

Speaking volumes

Zetland, Sydney NSW
City of Sydney

This public library and plaza in Sydney speak volumes on our attitude to public space, demonstrating that buildings aren’t always the answer. Won in competition as a ‘critically urban’ response, our design is a commentary on what the broader masterplan for the neighbourhood lacked: a generous, celebratory place that invites the community in.

Green Square is Australia’s largest urban renewal project, transforming the old industrial inner suburbs of Sydney into a new town centre with housing for 61,000 people and jobs for 21,000. Questions about how to make this freshly masterplanned district into a sustainable, liveable community were central to the brief for the public library. How could we give the new neighbourhood heart and soul? How could we bring people together when public space is at a premium? And what’s the future of the library anyway?

Our solution places the library below ground, preserving the precious public space on top as a focal point for the new town centre. We allowed a selection of elements to pop up into the plaza as geometric shapes, blurring the boundaries between indoors and out, and able to operate independently outside opening hours. A wedge-shaped, glazed pavilion provides the main entrance, leading down into the library itself, which is arranged around a lushly planted, circular sunken garden cut through the ground plane. A beacon-like, six-storey tower emerges above, with a stack of reading rooms, music and computer labs below a colourfully lit plant room. And we added a trapezoid auditorium, scooping down from upper to lower levels, for readings, performance and conversation.

This is a building detailed for the individual as well as the city. As well as reclaiming outdoor space for the neighbourhood as a whole, it offers human-scaled places for unexpected uses and private moments. The wide steps leading up to the plaza are simultaneously sun loungers or bleacher seating; the coloured niches in the childrens’ library portholes, reading nests or hamster wheels. For us as a practice, the competition conditions were liberating creatively, allowing us to experiment with (and push forward) our belief in the kind of generous, connected citymaking that welcomes inhabitation and participation.

Best Public Building, Property Council Of Australia, Innovation & Excellence Awards

Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture, National Architecture Awards
National Award for Urban Design, National Architecture Awards
‘Learning Space’ Award, INDE Awards
NSW Premier’s Prize, AIA NSW
John Verge Award for Interior Architecture, AIA NSW
Urban Design Award, AIA NSW
Public Architecture Award, AIA NSW
Chicago Athenaeum International Design Award
NSW ‘Civic Landscape’ Award, AILA NSW
Finalist Architizer Awards
Finalist World Architecture Festival

International Library Award, Architecture Review (UK)

Studio Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture
HASSELL (Landscape)
ARUP (Engineering)
Collider (Wayfinding)

Tom Roe

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