The Library At The Dock

by | 20. Jun 2016

Feature | Public/ leisure | Sustainable

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The Library at the Dock performs a vital civic function in the growing Docklands district. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

By Jennifer McMaster

The Library at the Dock, by Clare Design, is a warm and welcome addition to Melbourne’s Docklands precinct. A cross between a library and a community center, it brings some much needed civic life and vitality to this new part of the city.  

On approach, the Library at the Dock reads as a three-story timber-clad box. An oversized awning projects outward, acting as a shading device and entry canopy for the building. This gesture also engages with the main public thoroughfare, a heritage-listed wharf that winds along the waterfront.

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The Library at the Dock maintains a modest and approachable scale on the waterfront. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

The Library at the Dock relies upon a simple building diagram of stacked floor plates arranged around a central stair. This circulation core cuts through the building, bringing in light and providing glimpses between levels. The surrounding floors are supported on a grid of columns and beams, and are enlivened with loose furniture and functions.

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A vertical stair provides visual connections throughout the building. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

The Library at the Dock is an accessible public space dedicated to community activity. The ground floor has concrete floors, high ceilings and a generous sense of scale. It contains book displays, a café, couches and a flexible room, which accommodates anything from tai chi to children’s parties. This space overlooks a nearby park, which is sheltered from the wind by the new building. The atmosphere within and between these spaces is informal and buzzing with life.

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The ground floor of the Library at the Dock is filled with casual activity. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

Upstairs, the Library at the Dock evolves into a mix of uses. The spaces are dotted with moveable shelves, gaming lounges, table tennis tables and study areas. Here, the spatial emphasis is more horizontal, with panoramic slot openings framing nearby views and high windows bringing sun deep into the space.

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A concept sketch demonstrates the passive solar strategies employed across the building, including efforts to bring sun and breezes to the interior. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Clare Design

Across all of these spaces, the Library at the Dock maintains the feeling of a familiar living room. It is a building that prioritizes the interior experience, and as such is cozy, comfortable and welcoming. Domestic touches are evident throughout, with operable blinds and glass louvers allowing occupants to adjust their immediate environment. There is a great understanding of the human scale, with pleasant places to place a book, sit and read, or study.

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The interior spaces maintain a homely feel. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

The Library at the Dock is primarily constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT), a material which is still gaining traction in Australia. CLT is used for the upper floor slabs, roof and core wall construction, while the post-and-beam structure is made of glulam. All of this structure was manufactured in Austria and shipped to Australia, facilitating a quick, simple and cost-effective construction process.

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The central stair was amongst the building components that was quickly assembled on-site, and was craned into place in less than an hour. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

The beauty of these timbers also translates to the architecture. The timber structure is celebrated and lends the building its weight, warmth and legibility. Horizontal light fittings hang elegantly in between the beams, picking up on the overall structural rhythm. Elsewhere, a recessive material palette of black painted surfaces and plywood allow the blonde timbers to remain foregrounded.

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Throughout the building, the timber is left exposed as the primary material. The Library at the Dock, Clare Design © 2014 Dianna Snape

The post-and beam construction also acts a flexible framework for the whole building. The spaces have been designed to remain adaptable, an inevitable requirement of the contemporary library. When items are fixed, they are done so directly and simply, with minimal fuss.

The Library at the Dock is a building that celebrates the simple things. It is a place to enjoy reading a book while drenched in sun, or watch the delicate play of water reflected up onto the ceiling. It is a robust and democratic building, which will serve a strong civic function as its community grows around it.

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Ground floor plan. © 2016 Clare Design

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First floor plan. © 2016 Clare Design

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Second floor plan. © 2016 Clare Design

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