Melbourne and other smaller communities owe much to ARM for influencing their colourful and exuberant public architecture. Storey Hall, the triumph of postmodern pastiche and arbitrary form; the wildly contorted Australian National Museum; the Port 1010 building, seemingly inspired by a popular visual illusion - all of these buildings evoke a response. It's hard not to have an opinion on them when the architecture is so loud. And who, after all, can inhabit Storey Hall's green-lit interior, see it's eccentric detailing and ironic Corinthian columns, and not at least smile?
The Albury Library Museum hangs together well as a whole - despite the fact that the design methodology put an emphasis on pastiche, and as with most of their buildings it seems, the firm aimed for an architecture that is "expressively unrestrained". ARM is famously happy to explain their methodology and inspirations, and the references their buildings make. To simplify greatly; before designing, the architects drove around the city to photograph and collect local 'roadkill' (their word), or spatial features and forms associated with Albury, Victoria, and its history, and sought to integrate them into the new cultural precinct. The Murray River is the salient theme which ties the building together, and the X forms of the building's striking façade were generated by mapping the structure of a decommissioned rail bridge which crosses that river onto a cylinder, and then flattening it out.
The building has a roughly L-shaped form, with the library and museum forming two wings which join at a double height foyer, a spacious hub which makes the museum and library appear like coves, or railway cabins. The site is already an established civic precinct, which the museum addresses on multiple sides with glazed walls sheltered by the X forms of the façade. The conjoined programs of the library and museum means that one body can oversea the collection of Albury's cultural assets, and children reading in the glazed 'nooks' of the junior library, designed to child scale, are free to wander into exhibitions at the museum. The permanent exhibition in the museum, Crossing Place, features artifacts and information which, like ARM's 'roadkill', is a curious gallery of local found objects. Exhibits include the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, photographed by Anne Zahalka, and Gerhard Ziermann's 1981 matchstick art of the Hume Dall Wall.
The building's setbacks are discontinuous, and its variable façade treatments highlight the dual program of the interior. In places, the steel fascia pulls back into the building to leave a void where trees are planted, creating nooks like those formed by the winding shape of tree-lined levees. The civic centre is and was intended to be a local icon. The X forms of the Kiewa façade are a signpost of sorts, in addition to an allusion to the local bridge and railway - in ARM's words, "XXXX marks the spot". +
1. The landscaping and form of the fascias allude to the curves of the Murray River. 2. The glazed skin of the building stresses transparency, but is sheltered somewhat by the X form façade and collonade, which avoid the appearance of an anonymous corporate office. 3. The X forms of the Kiewa façade are a signpost of sorts, in addition to an allusion to the local bridge and railway – in ARM's words, "XXXX marks the spot." 4. Glazed nooks and child-scale furnishings make the junior library accessible to children in a way few libraries are. 5. The bands of fluorescent lights in the interior allude to highway-side lighting.
PHOTOGRAPHY by John Gollings