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King Street Library, Newtown

Part 1 Project 2003
Julien Gouiric
Jessica Beresford
University of Sydney, Australia
Traditionally, libraries are destinations that ask visitors to leave behind the outside world and enter into an enclosed environment purely for information. However, in today’s society information is becoming closely interwoven with daily life and nowhere is this more apparent than in the bohemian quarter of Newtown, Sydney. A hive of political and cultural publications, serials written by local authors, street art and internet cafes, all interacting with its main street – King street – and its many cafes and gathering spots.

This project seeks to design a library on King Street that doesn’t presume to capture or enclose the creative energy of Newtown but instead to funnel it, acting as a hub and a place to stop while travelling from A to B.

The western façade has been peeled away, creating an atrium that acts as an internal street, meandering through a scattering of spaces given over to reading, exhibitions, computers or socialising. While the façade now becomes an urban backdrop, the atrium is a void that allows the environmental contrasts of the outside environment into the library. Moving around the building becomes a play of ever shifting glare and shadow, noise and peace, safety and vertigo, suggesting a sense of fluidity and change.

Julien Gouiric
Jessica Beresford

Public Libraries are something of an anachronism in contemporary media society. Are they Temples of Knowledge? Places to Rest your Feet after shopping? In the 'hip' tattoo-ed, nose-pierced ambience of inner-city Newtown, what role can they play? Can they be relevant? Julien Gouric's design confronts the issues with a complex respose that turns the building inside-out, forming a street-scale space cut across by steel-plate bridge- like 'reading rooms' that give internal spaces of intimacy and refined proportions, while giving a sense of incongruity and the incidental that reflects the street-culture of the town. The project is site-specific, resolving the awkwardness of an unpromising site, and 'real' - the physical characteristics and qualities of the assemblage are specific. The design brilliantly examines the fundamental issue of the changing meaning of our cultural inheritances across generations.


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