The Green Square Library and Plaza in Sydney, Australia redefines the traditional idea of a public library. Its innovative design locates the library building largely underground, making way for a vast new public plaza at street level.
Hassell developed the detailed design for the 8,500-sqm urban plaza in collaboration with Studio Hollenstein and Stewart Architecture, referencing their winning City of Sydney competition scheme.
As the first of several public places delivered in the new Green Square Town Centre Precinct – Australia’s largest urban renewal zone and future home to some 60,000 residents – the client wanted the library and plaza to become the civic heart of the community. They envisioned a high-quality, active and flexible plaza that both complements the library and supports a wide variety of casual and programmed uses.
A vital community living room
The overall design fuses landscape and built form to create a vibrant ‘urban living room’ for this high-density, mixed-use precinct – supporting Green Square’s ever-changing program of open-air activities and events. The plaza is pierced by the library’s open and geometric forms. Its jewel-like architectural beacons draw the eye, while thoughtful indoor-outdoor transitions, such as the library amphitheatre/entrance, welcome people in and maximise the open space.
Designed as an extension of the library, and the adjacent neighbourhoods, the plaza’s become an engaging community destination for all, offering a range of adaptable spaces and amenities under the shade of umbrellas and lemon-scented gum trees.
Catering to the needs of this diverse community, multiple outdoor ‘rooms’ support the wide range of experiences on offer – with spaces for large celebratory and cultural events, to more intimate library activities and social gatherings; as well as simple spaces for outdoor play and sun lounges for quiet reading and relaxation. Highlights include: an open community lawn, ephemeral water-play space, a green-walled amphitheatre leading down into the library, and a sunken storytelling garden that’s set within the building.
The 8,500sqm public plaza is unified through a hardy and cohesive suite of planting, paving and urban elements, and bespoke artworks that build upon the character and story of the precinct, and reflect the urbanity of the plaza. The design team worked with urban artists, from conception to delivery, on three custom pieces – ‘High Water’, ‘Three Dugongs’, and ‘Cloud Nation’ – providing input into the design and final placement of the works within the plaza. The site’s history is also interpreted in the plaza’s central water feature that references the historic line of Shea’s Creek, and etched into the amphitheatre seating.
A sustainable place, strengthening connections
With a 5-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, the design embraces the city’s sustainability goals – increasing the urban green network, implementing water-wise management measures, and improving public and active transport connections.
New trees, garden beds with native grasses, and the central lawn contribute over 420sqm to Sydney’s green space. Overtime the 40 native gum trees that encircle the plaza will grow to 35-metres, creating a generous cooling canopy and moderating the scale of surrounding buildings.
In Sydney’s climate adequate planting and canopy shade for cooling and comfort within the plaza are integral to its success. Therefore, a structural root cell system as well as large stormwater storage tanks for water harvesting (both made from 100% recycled plastic) are installed beneath the pavement to maximise tree pit soil volumes and growth rates. Irrigation needs are managed using drought tolerant plants, unique soil composites, and on-site water detention, including stormwater harvesting, overland flow reticulation and drainage within planting zones.
A 100-metre-long paved corridor along the plaza’s northern boundary, challenges the traditional approach to shared street zones. Trees, bike hoops, drainage channels and custom bollards act as the guiding elements along this ‘traffic’ corridor, while avoiding visual dominance within the plaza. Through extensive coordination with the client and adjacent developments, accessible gradients have been achieved throughout the plaza, and this shared zone has been future-proofed for light rail integration.
The project is a model for future library and public space developments – it’s playing an evolving role in connecting the community by offering flexible access to information and working across the lines that formerly divided library, cultural programming and community services.
The seamless integration of the new library and plaza has created a second home for Green Square’s existing and future residents – a place where people are encouraged to come together day and night, to connect, create and explore.
Name of the project: Green Square Library and Plaza
Project category: Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project:
Entrant: Studio Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture and Hassell
Roles: _Studio Hollenstein in association with Stewart Architecture – Architect / Urban Designer _Hassell – Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (if any):
_City of Sydney – Client
_John Holland Group – Builder
Project location: 355 Botany Rd, Zetland NSW 2017, Australia
Design year: 2013
Year Built: 2018