Broken Hill, Australia
University of New South Wales
Since Broken Hill’s mineral reserves have diminished in the 1960’s, the prosperity and energy of the now heritage-listed town has declined at an alarming rate. The proposal of a new regional library and public plaza seeks to revitalise the civic heart of this regional town to bring back the energy that gave the town its lustrous history.
The library brief challenged students to seek a broader role for the library – to provide a catalyst of sorts for a town that is suffering ongoing decline (in population, economic, social and cultural) and to be a welcoming destination for its many different user groups, including indigenous, youth, children, the elderly and residents from remote locations throughout the region.
‘Adit’, a mining term, is the name for the horizontal opening of a mine where miners enter. The new regional library creates a new ‘mine’ for the people to discover the most precious gem in the town, the relationship of the deep earth and open sky to the community. The value of Broken Hill is defined by this relationship rather than the material wealth of the Line of Lode, the remnant of the existing mine.
The ‘Adit’ of the new library is through the existing Town Hall fragment, erected at the beginning of the town’s mining boom. Apart from ensuring its centrality to the town and guaranteed public awareness, this strategy provides a new opportunity for the heritage fragment to be truly engaged with essential civic infrastructure.
In locating the library underground, the ground plane is free to host a variety of uses to enervate the precinct at all hours. With a saw tooth roof providing shelter and screened light, the site could become an amenable setting for markets, evening film screenings, concerts, classes, gastronomic festivals etc, while ensuring the library below remains cool and tempered throughout the year. Gaining light and air from a sunken courtyard, the library provides a spin wheel arrangement of well-proportioned spaces, defined and served by well resolved servant spaces and facilities.
The regional library and public plaza proposes that architecture has the power to evoke a strong sense of belonging to a community such that it can give new meaning to the town by establishing a place that is welcoming for all.