THE Bacchus Marsh community, in the Shire of Moorabool, hasn't had a new municipal building for some time, with many public buildings dating back to the 1960s and '70s.
So when it was time to commission a new building, the council wanted a landmark, something commensurate with the impressive elm trees bordering the Avenue of Honour, leading into the township.
The Lerderderg Library, named after a local pioneer responsible for settling the area, is such a building. Designed by Group GSA Whitefield McQueen Irwin Alsop, this library and community hub is now the first thing seen after passing through the Avenue of Honour. "These elm trees were an important starting point in our initial discussions with the council," says architect Michael Brooks, associate director of the practice.
"This building was also to provide a gateway into the shopping centre, a signpost that you've arrived."
While it could have been tempting to design a building that screamed for attention, the architects were more intent on a subtle signpost.
The single-storey building, on the corner of Main and Lord streets, features glass and charcoal grey steel panels, the latter having a series of cutouts. "We were inspired by the spaces delineated by the elm branches in the Avenue of Honour, as much as the foliage," says Brooks.
The library's steel facade also features lime green steel beams, evocative of tree trunks. "These steel branches also provide the building's structural support," Brooks says.
To create transparency, Group GSA appears to have "chewed off" some of the building's corners with greater expanses of window. One of these corners functions as an office for the local visitors centre.
"We wanted to get as much dappled light into the library and meeting rooms, while still maintaining a level of privacy," says Brooks, who also used extensive glazing for the entrance.
In contrast to the exterior, which is fairly restrained in both materials and colour palette, the interior is vibrant.
The library, for example, features lime green steel across the ceiling. And the grey and green carpet was customised to capture the verdant foliage of the elm trees. Likewise, the area set aside in the library for toddlers is bright and punchy, with poppy coloured plastic furniture scattered around.
The architects were also mindful when it came to designing the "teen area". Two pods are interlinked, one featuring lime green joinery, the other in plywood. One of these areas is used for consol games, the other for editing music or simply catching up with friends.
Like most contemporary libraries, the notion of a hushed zone wasn't at the forefront of the design. However, for this centre, which includes a space for the local historical society, as well as community meeting rooms, there is an entire wing that can be used for quieter activities.
And to differentiate the two areas, the secondary wing attached to the library was constructed in shiplap timber and glass.
"People can wander through to these rooms when they've found the book they're looking for. Or they can settle in one of the armchairs in the library," says Brooks.
Given the size of the building, approximately 900 square metres, the brief included the need for flexibility, for changing uses with little effort.
"We deliberately designed all the bookshelves so that they could be easily moved. While some shelves delineate more fixed spaces, others can be easily rearranged to accommodate larger functions," says Brooks. And rather than walk in and walk out, the amenities encourage people to stay and explore.