State Library Victoria unveils the first of its new spaces

Laurence DragomirSeptember 24, 20180 min read

The first of the State Library Victoria's new spaces were unveiled last Friday as part of the Library's Vision 2020 redevelopment. Once fully complete, the $88.1 million transformation will increase the total amount of public space by 40% and seating by 70%. Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects are leading the design for Vision 2020.

Once home to the Melbourne Museum (1906 to 1997) and the NGV (1999 to 2002), the redeveloped spaces will be accessed by two new entrances – the historic Russell Street entrance, which was closed for more than a decade, and a new accessible entrance on La Trobe Street. These two entrances form the main points of entry for Library visitors for the duration of the redevelopment works.

The Swanston Street entrance and ground floor have been closed to allow for the next stage of construction, and will reopen upon completion in 12 months time. A brand new, exhibition gallery - the Victoria Gallery - is also set to open in May 2019, with support from the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation. 

As part of the first stage of redevelopment, two new reading rooms and a dedicated special events venue were created, joining a new lounge and meeting space. A 60% larger Readings bookshop and new cafe, Guild also feature in the first stage works. The shared meeting space has been designed for working, collaborating and relaxing, and will also feature a large-scale original artwork by Melbourne artist Tai Snaith running along the length of the wall.

State Library Victoria unveils the first of its new spaces
The expanded Readings bookshop. Image: Patrick Rodriguez

The the Victorian Government has provided $60.4m towards funding the redevelopment, with the balance of the $88.1m raised via philanthropic support. 

Key features

  • The Russell Street heritage entrance, the original entrance to Melbourne Museum, built in 1906
  • The Russell Street Welcome Zone, a lounge and meeting space inside the Russell Street entrance seating 69 and designed for visitors to meet, study, work or relax, also housing Readings bookshop and new cafe, Guild
  • The Arts Reading Room moves to a heritage gallery seating 52, with new technology including AV stations and listening posts to access the Library’s vast multimedia collection
  • The Herald and Weekly Times Newspapers Reading Room and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust Family History Reading Room share a stunning heritage gallery seating 76 which, along with the Arts Reading Room, is a designated quiet space for reading and research
  • Isabella Fraser Room, a heritage events venue now available for hire, named after the Library’s first female employee seating 156 banquet style, 200 conference style and 220 cocktail style and is supported by state-of-the-art audio-visual technology and a new production kitchen
  • Readings bookshop moves from the western end of the Library to the eastern end, increasing in size by 60% with an expanded children’s section
  • New cafe, Guild is operated by Melbourne’s largest distributor of fresh almond milk, Almond Milk Co., offering plain and flavoured almond milk, a seasonal menu of salads and sandwiches, coffee by Sensory Lab and coffee day passes for all day supply of filter coffee
  • A large-scale artwork installed inside the Russell Street Welcome Zone by Melbourne artist, Tai Snaith, titled ‘Open Book’ was selected from 77 artist submissions, with Snaith awarded $20,000 to produce the piece, which is her largest work to date
  • Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation is a 500m2 international-standard exhibition space that will showcase collection material using cutting-edge technology creating an immersive and interactive experience for visitors. The inaugural Victoria Gallery exhibition will open in May 2019.
State Library Victoria unveils the first of its new spaces
The new welcome zone at Russell Street. Image: Patrick Rodriguez

What they say... 

This visionary project will ensure our State Library continues to be a welcoming and inspiring place for all Victorians, as it has been for the past 162 years.

State Library Victoria is responding to the needs of the community by opening up more of this beautiful, iconic building to the public – providing additional reading rooms, public spaces and function capacity.

We’re now at the halfway point of this landmark project and this is our first look at the stunning transformation of State Library Victoria.

- Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries 


The Library is thrilled to open the first of its transformed spaces, which feature world-class design and allow us to reimagine what a library can be,” Mr Wylie said.

Visitors are at the heart of everything the Library does and we can’t wait to see people using these magnificent new Library facilities, whether they are researching the collection, collaborating with peers, browsing Readings bookshop or meeting friends for coffee.

- John Wylie, President of the Library Board of Victoria 


Architectus was tasked with the opportunity to transform the heritage Isabella Fraser Room, to a space that was both flexible and opulent to cater for grand events such as weddings and corporate functions.

One of the key design features is the Denmark-imported soft cell acoustic panels in the Isabella Fraser room, but the beautiful herringbone timber flooring is a stand-out complimenting the elegance and ambience of the building.”

Our design strategy was to strip these spaces back to their inherent beauty, then add a sense that exciting and memorable experiences will occur within them.

- Ruth Wilson, Architectus Director


Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.
State Library Victoria
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
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