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Redefining today's Library: Helensvale Library 10 months on...
From the moment the Helensvale Library and Cultural Community and Youth Centre opened its doors last year, we have been excited by how the public have embraced every aspect of the building.  The public’s enthusiasm is captured here on video by Gold Coast City Council.
Andrew Nimmo spoke to Gold Coast Library Services and Cultural Development Manager Marian Morgan-Bindon, and Head Librarian Leo Clayton to get an update on how the Library is performing, as well as to discuss the broader question of 'what constitutes today’s Library?'
Designed by lahznimmo architects in association with Complete Urban, the project initiated an important evolution in the cultural agenda of the Gold Coast City Council by bringing together a local library and youth centre into the one venue. Aside from the Library itself, the centre incorporates a 200 seat auditorium, rehearsal spaces, recording studio, meeting rooms, visual arts space and digital media lab incorporating a 3D printer. These functions are wrapped around a shared indoor / outdoor plaza called the 'Neighbourhood Room', allowing the different activities within the centre and different users to see and interact with one another.
Marian notes that the  project has built a good deal of political capital between the Council and the community and has already developed a strong sense of community ownership. Unexpectedly, it is also proving popular with the wider Gold Coast catchment — around a third of its users are from outside the Helensvale area. In this sense, it has become a destination and a benchmark for new Library and community facilities for the region.


The social focus of the centre, the Neighbourhood Room, is working as intended and being regularly used as an overflow space for performances and classes, as well as an event space itself. It has become a place to meet up with friends, and a place where all the different users of the building, young and old can mix with one another.
Increasingly, Marian and Leo are finding that the unique mix of uses contained in the building has blurred the boundary of the physical Library to the point where it is integrated with all of the functions within the centre.
Where once the Library was just a place to store and view information, it is now a place for active creation and learning. A quick look at the weekly Helensvale events calendar highlights this. For example, the Library has become a place you can go not only read a book but also to experiment with 3D printing and design; attend self-publishing or art workshops; learn about technology and coding; go to tai chi or dance classes; make films, music videos and recordings; enjoy plays, movie screenings and book readings; or play and learn in the dedicated children’s area.
There have been quite a few unanticipated but welcome surprises since the building opened. In particular, Marian and Leo are amazed at the number of teenagers the centre attracts. Traditionally, teenagers didn’t come to the Library – however, they have responded to the open and casual environment and often come in after school to study and socialise.
Both Marian and Leo emphasised that Libraries need to have flexible spaces where you can allow people to change the space to suit how they want to use it, instead of telling people what they can and can’t do.
A good example of this is the mezzanine space on level two that overlooks the Neighbourhood Room and was originally intended as an intermittent breakout space for community meeting rooms. Over time, a group of teenagers have gravitated to the area and it has now become a defacto gamer’s lounge, creating a social space which was not initially envisaged.
Marian and Leo believe one of the principal drivers for the evolution of the Library lies in our realisation that learning is not passive; it is active and creative. The Library is there to enable people and needs to be dynamic rather than static. ­On the question of what constitutes a Library, Marian could see no limitation to what might be considered – as long as it assists in the delivery of literacy. 

Out to Tender: Heffron Hall
It is always a momentous occasion when a project goes out to tender and we are eagerly awaiting tenders to be returned for our Heffron Hall Refurbishment for the City of Sydney!
The Heffron Hall project comprises a significant refurbishment and expansion of an existing community building in Surry Hills for the City of Sydney. The building sits adjacent to a small pocket park — Albert Sloss Reserve — and is opposite the newly restored Burton Street Tabernacle Theatre. The project is an opportunity to improve the physical and visual access across this domain, and to map a continuous creative terrain that embraces all activities, from the Theatre of the Tabernacle Hall and Burton Stree,t to the recreation of Albert Sloss Reserve; with Heffron Hall as the linking element.
The City of Sydney have been very active in commissioning a range of new community facilities and Heffron Hall is one of a number of projects that are about to start construction. Recent completed City of Sydney projects have garnered numerous high profile design awards and set a model for other local councils to emulate.
The existing building is to be stripped back to reveal the essential structure and then in-filled with new community functions, which will include a hall/rehearsal space and out-of-hours-school care. To Burton Street, a new glazed void will link the two-levels of the building, and engage the street with the subterranean lower ground level of the building. The design provides for direct views through the building to the redesigned Albert Sloss Reserve, also part of the project.

Stay tuned for construction updates!
Under Construction: Bowen Place Crossing, Canberra...
One of the most satisfying phases for any project is the construction stage when you can physically see the project taking shape and becoming a reality. Excavation is now well underway on our new pedestrian and cyclist crossing for Bowen Place for the National Capital Authority in Canberra, due for completion early 2015.
The project sits within the heritage listed and significant context of the Parliamentary Zone. The design response is fundamentally landscape driven — the new underpass is part of a continuous path that slices through the terrain on a trajectory that speaks to the existing geometries of Bowen Place and the National Carillon. The new insertion is deliberately minimal to allow the landscape setting to take precedence.
The path is contained by two wall types, the Deferential Wall — a taut, smooth, off-white precast concrete that deliberately defers to the existing palette of materials and tones within the Parliamentary Zone; and the Assertive Wall — composed of a deeply-profiled, weathering steel that naturally ages to a rusty ochre and appears to be wrinkled and compressed as it follows the tighter inside line of the path.
Project Architect Hugo Cottier says the main challenges of the project were 'setout, setout and setout'.

This project has been our first foray into the design and documentation of road and bridge infrastructure and it has required a rethink on how to present and document the project. Due to the large scale nature of the project and the complex geometry, traditional dimensioning techniques employed for a typical building would not communicate the information adequately to the people on site. Instead we have set-out the project utilizing CAD generated ‘eastings and northings’, as well as AHD levels. We have utilized our ArchiCAD software to build a detailed 3-D model of the project, and the contractor’s surveyor has in turn imported our model to set out the project on site. In this way, the contractor is able to generate additional set out points as necessary and cross check the accuracy of documented set out points.
As all projects invariably move toward full BIM implementation, we are adapting our processes to find better ways to document our projects so we can communicate more effectively with our collaborators and clients, and manage projects more efficiently.  

Scale Man's Wine Spec.

Scale Man (aka Andrew Nimmo) attended a shiraz master class a couple of weeks ago at the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival. He tasted some lovely Australian Shiraz, but felt that the standout on the day was Seppelt St Peter’s 2010 from the Grampians in Victoria. St Peters is a Scale Man favourite, with the 2010 vintage the best from the last 10 years.
'It has a great structure, with a brooding earthiness reminiscent of a classic dry pressed brick, I am thinking of something like Bowral Gertrudis Brown. There is a scaffold of savoury cedary oak that appears to have been lightly sanded and then polished to reveal the true grain. Like all St Peters, this wine was built on a great foundation that will ensure great drinking for 20 to 30 years, providing it is maintained according to the manufacturers recommendations. A very elegant wine - if it was a building I think it would look something like
Aalto’s Saynatsalo Town Hall from 1952'.
Copyright © 2014 lahznimmo architects, All rights reserved.

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