QUT R Block Library Upgrade

Location: Kelvin Grove Campus, Australia
Client: Queensland University of Technology
Status: Completed 2011


James Cubitt Architects in association with PTA, Brisbane,  were the design team    for the  refurbishment of the six storey  Kelvin Grove Branch library (R Block) and minor works to level 4 of (V Block) at Gardens Point. Commencing design in 2009 with site works finishing at R Block in early 2011 the project delivered a comprehensive mid life building upgrade to R Block while allowing critical library operations to remain functional throughout. The design team sort to reinforce the role of the  tertiary Library as both the academic heart and social hub in contemporary campus life. This approach was strengthened by the positioning of the existing library - however as the campus had developed and expanded over time the experience and ease in which students could access the building was lost. With no clear campus wide Master plan addressing the continual development the library over time lost its importance. With the interiors having not undergone any major refurbishment since its completion in the late 60’s the building now felt tired and dated in turn impacting on student usage. As part of the re-design the first phase allowed JCA to revaluate the buildings location and how this related to the now significantly altered campus. This process emphasised the need to relocate the main library entry to better utilise the central spine linking the bulk of the campus with the council provided bust interchange thus forcing students to pass the library each day. Retaining the original entry allowed an alterative entry point both of which now focused on drawing students into the building.

Key internal planning strategies involved the improved vertical circulation between levels 2 and 3 enabled by a reduction in the collection ,increased  seating capacity at both private and group desking, the creation of two new training rooms, multiple small group study rooms and a designated gaming laboratory for the academic testing of new and archival computer games. A unique inclusion in the project has been the integration of secure external student spaces, through balconies and reading courtyards. Another signature element in the design is the spectacular book canopy above the new main stair. By using recycled volumes weeded from the collection and assembled by Urban Art Projects the stair and canopy has become a signature space within the campus’s collective memory. This bespoke piece of integrated art become a beacon drawing visitors into the building. Working with the very strong original architecture, the design also looked to open the library up further through increasing the extent of natural light and removing internal walls, offering a brighter cleaner library space. This openness aligned with the student desire of more choice and flexibility in the way the library performed for them as the main users but also to move away from the traditional view of the library as a quite space. Working with the QUT Library directorate, a new service counter model has been developed, that departs from the monolithic central staff station and instead draws upon contemporary retail theories of self help focused service. The unique solution  has received international attention for QUT further enhancing their excellent reputation as a progressive Library service. The final refurbishment has presented a bold vibrant library, once that embraces the diversity of the student population, that explores technology and recognises the value of change as a positive response to the way in which as individuals we each respond to the environment we work in.

WINNER 2012 AIA Queensland Architecture Awards –State Award for Interior Architecture – QUT, R BLOCK LIBRARY UPGRADE

Regional Commendation 2012 AIA Queensland Architecture Awards, Brisbane Region – QUT, R BLOCK LIBRARY UPGRADE 

Photography: Roger D'Souza