Brisbane, AU

Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones
Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones
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Brisbane Girls Grammar Research Learning Centre

On their first day at the school, students are read “Imagine a Day”, a picture book by Sarah Thomson.  A quote from the last page reads “Imagine a day when a book swings open on silent hinges and a place you’ve never seen before welcomes you home”, and with it, an image of a library where books become doorways to other worlds, bookshelves become balconies, small things become big things in a space of complexity and delight.

There was also the recollection of an imaginary place called the “cemetery for forgotten books” in “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zaffon.  “A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive, woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry”.  The project combines the tenderness of the former with the excitement of the latter.

The site contains a Moreton Bay Fig which is over 100 years old.  It is part of the foundational planting of the school and Brisbane more broadly, and the relationship between the new building and the tree was to be critical. 

These parameters coalesced to form a unique library typology.  A five bay long, five storey high building with north south orientation frames the tree, with a curtain wall façade that reflects the tree and offers an experience of the tree from the interior. 

The book collection rooms are two storey volumes, with sweeping stairs that connect the floor levels.  There are six book collection rooms, set at split levels to each other, with books that line the walls.  The height and length of the building frames the tree, and it is possible to pass through the five storeys of light filled vertical labyrinth, using it as a navigation device. 

The prosaic grid of 25 was converted to an interconnected spatial matrix with less than 8% floor loss.  GLA’s and an FLA are interspersed amongst the book collection rooms.

Importantly, the school’s determination for exceptional scholarship resulted in a building specifically designed to excite the search for knowledge.

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Status: Built
Location: Brisbane, AU