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Green Square Library

A gesture at an urban scale: a constructed landscape that responds to the topography, engages with the surrounding site, and rises to create a social, sheltered space of knowledge.

Design concept

This articulated Landscape (A) extends above and around the Library (B) creating different degrees of outdoor spaces: terraced seating (C), water plaza (D) and vegetated open areas (E). The Library is the centre of this green environment: it is conceived as a human space, a space of community and encounter, where knowledge is gained and shared. Within the building, the main reading area is the expression of these values.

(A) Library; (B) Internal – external foyer; (C) Landscaped Seating; (D) Water Plaza; (E) Landscaped Plaza

Design elements

The project comprises four main elements that holistically interact to address the program and the site as a whole. The Library building (A) emerges from the green plaza as a constructed vegetated landscape. It rises above the ground creating an indoor-outdoor foyer that is in continuity with the surrounding landscape. The main public spaces of the library are spatially continuous, and visually permeable, acting as an open living room for the community. The reading area is configured as a stepped seating space – an amphitheatre of sharing, knowledge, and people – and overlooks the gallery and the site. The Library also offers quieter and more enclosed spaces for intimate and focused reading. Natural light is filtered through the louvered façade and gathered by open patios. The external Landscaped Seating (C) – a terraced plaza – expands the inner space of the Library; mediating between the building and the Water Plaza (D). This, in turn, offers a changing space engaging with the presence – and memory – of water. The Landscaped Plaza (E), Neilson’s Square, reinforces the green connection through the whole precinct and beyond; becoming a vegetated corridor between the train station to Zetland Avenue and the Drying Green. The Plaza offers a more informal open area to the public, providing winter suntraps and areas of summer shade. (A) Library; (C) Landscaped Seating; (D) Water Plaza; (E) Landscaped Plaza

Urban connectivity

The overarching landscape works as a connective fabric, allowing and suggesting multiple ways of crossing the site in response to the surrounding buildings, pedestrian and vehicular flows. The longitudinal placement of the building enables the main pedestrian flow (A) between the train station and Zetland Avenue. Vehicular crossing (B) is allowed across the landscaped surface of the plaza: where needed, the topography is adjusted to respond to street levels at either side of the square. Multiple pedestrian crossings and diagonal connections (C), (D) and (E) are enabled both through the Library and over the Landscaped Plaza and roof, connecting with the Transport Corridor to the North. Pedestrian flows (F) also engage with the presence of the Water Plaza, its changing water level and the resulting alternative paths.(A) Longitudinal urban flow and direction; (B) Vehicular crossing; (C) Pedestrian crossing through the Library; (D) Pedestrian flow to Transport Corridor; (E) Pedestrian flow from Train Station; (F)Pedestrian flow around and through the Water Plaza.

Connecting landscape

More than marked pedestrian paths, it is the constructed landscape that unifies and connects the site. The overall design of the plaza is proposed as a means to create an urban continuum that expands the boundary of the building and enables public life within a dynamic, changing and limit-less vegetated landscape. Different precincts within the site, Landscaped Seating (C), Water Plaza (D) and Landscaped Plaza (E) seamlessly flow into each other fostering both the perception and the use of the site as a whole. (C) Landscaped Seating; (D) Water Plaza; (E) Landscaped Plaza

Water plaza

An interpretation of Shea’s Stream, the Water Plaza (D) consists of a large paved area of slightly descending levels. The area is a multi-purpose public ground, used for community markets and activities, which can then be ‘flooded’ to become a wet playground. It engages with seasonal changes as well as public events, by being both a changing environment and embodying the metaphor of flooding. It also acts as a water collecting surface during seasonal rains, to store rain water as well as controlling water levels on the site. The Water Plaza is a ‘living plaza’ – a shifting and playful focus within the site, a centre of urban and human dynamism.

The Water Plaza is thought of as the domain for integrated and interactive public art. With a focus on the ecology of the site, the pieces respond to the shifting level of the water, and reinforce the perception of the water as a defining element of Green Square. (D) Water Plaza

A changing landscape

The whole site is thought of as a changing landscape, where shades of sunlight, shadows, water and vegetation reflect seasonal changes and produce a plaza that is alive and dynamic. A careful selection of plants and native wildflowers, affords the site a further level of subtle and colourful recurring change. (A) Water Plaza; (B) People ; (C) Landscaped Plaza.

Green Square Library

Green Square Library

Sydney, Australia, International design competition for a Library and it's Urban Square, (RCR Arquitectes + MORQ)