As we increasingly rely on technology, public libraries have begun to fill another civic role as dynamic, versatile and connective hubs for the community. The same can be said of university libraries, which have become active, collaborative and social learning spaces.

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In preparation for the 2018 academic year, University of Wollongong (UOW) refurbished the ground floor of its library to meet changing models for learning and to provide an environment for students and staff that fosters collaboration while also offering tranquil spaces for solitude. Geyer designed the student section, and in December 2017, UOW engaged DesignInc to develop the staff area based on a third-party preliminary concept.

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“The project brief required additional concept development and completed documentation for construction, all within a three-week timeframe and to strict budgetary requirements,” says DesignInc Principal David Taylor. “The design team, led by Violetta Boyd, were up for the challenge and delivered as promised, also providing further concept input to ensure the administration teams’ expectations were met.”

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DesignInc concentrated on the staff administration, operations and breakout areas, including reception, work zones, collaborative areas, IT training rooms, book-sorting room, meeting rooms and offices. As time was of the essence, DesignInc worked with the initial third-party plan and some of the design elements, but further developed the design to allow for visual transparency, adaptive work environments, customised joinery and to reinforce the theme of nature.

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The new University of Wollongong environment is cohesive, meeting the functional needs of the staff and provides spaces for concentration and collaboration. A variety of seating includes sit-stand height-adjustable workstations, hot desks for visitors and contract staff, casual ottomans and semi-private acoustic booths for impromptu meetings or private reading. The reception serves as a convergence point, and a backdrop of timber battens screen the librarians’ resource library.

The colour and material palettes are inspired by nature. “The hues of the Illawarra eucalyptus leaves served as the primary source of inspiration, reflecting the seasons, and with leafy, earthy and sandstone shades creating visual stimuli,” says DesignInc Senior Interior Architect Violetta Boyd. “Woody laminates resemble the light at dusk and protection of shade in the region, and the upholstery fabric colour and patterns were customised exclusively.”

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DesignInc had a short timeframe to develop the project from concept to completion, with production and delivery, including custom furniture and fabrics, occurring during peak construction periods. “The greatest challenge was for the design team to deliver the project during the busiest time of the year. All parties worked together as a tight unit, communicating daily to keeping everyone abreast of the deliverables and working above and beyond expectations,” Violetta explains.

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The result is a positive, creative and functional open-plan environment with increased amenities to facilitate staff in performing their work more efficiently. With both traditional and technological resources, the modern workplace and library better aids library staff in their own work and in supporting students and faculty.

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“Thank you all for your excellent effort in developing the drawings in such short time… The product that was produced far exceeded my expectations, especially considering the timeframe.” – Eliza Morton, Project Manager, RPS Group