Transformance wrap up: The revelations of Perth City Library

Published: Wednesday 26 June 2019

City libraries are evolving and it’s clear that this building is not just a place for the storage of books, but also a central meeting place for the city.

The site tours are always a highlight of an LEA conference and the walking tour was such a great idea.  I know I won’t be the only person on the tour to say that I hope other conferences replicate the experience. 

As a first-time visitor to Perth, it was great to be able to discover part of the city on foot and of course, it didn’t hurt that we were treated to some great weather.

In between visits to some inner-city schools, we dropped by the Perth City Library.  It is located in Perth’s Cathedral Square, nestled amongst several stunning heritage buildings, predominantly of brick and stone.  Approaching the library, it both stands out and is respectful of its context.  The circular plan contrasts the surrounding buildings, but the combination glazed and stone clad facade is muted in a soft nod to the heritage buildings it shares the square with.


CIty Of Perth library entrance; circular planning

The entrance is large, welcoming, and open to both the street and square.  The stone clad columns that make up the façade act like more of a screening element, allowing natural light in and generous views of the cathedral as we move up the staircase that circles the building on the inside of the façade.  

The second-floor space is a quite impressive open plan with a central volume that spans three floors.  This central volume allows for some really great visual connections between the levels and you can’t help but draw your eyes up to the muralled ceiling.  Despite the size and volume of the space, sounds are muted and it feels like a great space to sit down and work in.  

Shelving is set out sparingly around the spaces and there are plenty of opportunities to sit and work either individually or in groups, with several nook like spaces that are slightly more sheltered.  The higher levels feature glazed, break out type, smaller rooms that offer a place where noisier, group interactions can happen and there is also a large outdoor terrace that looks out over the square towards the river.   Higher up, there is a level dedicated to children that has an open central space flooded with natural light and a tree planted in its centre.  It’s not necessarily the most playful space, but it is inviting, and its openness makes it adaptable.  The tree doesn’t feel like a gimmick but a genuine attempt to make it a more natural setting.

Throughout the building the spaces have this great quality of feeling open but lightly articulated – there’s always an opportunity to have your own little area.  The combination of natural materials, natural light, generous spaces and good acoustic properties, all makes for comfortable spaces that are ideal to study and work in.   It was a really fun building to discover and a reminder of the concept that learning can take place anywhere.

Article and photos: Paul Droney, Leaf Architecture

LEA's 19th annual conference, Transformance, was held in Perth from May 28-31, 2019.  Our 20th annual conference, re:Activate, will be held in Christchurch from May  13-15, 2020.