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JCU Eddie Koiki Mabo Library

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The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library of Townsville’s James Cook University is the landmark and built focus of the Campus which was laid out by the prominent Queensland Architect James Birrell. He also designed the original library building which was to become his Master-work.

The 1966 building had an ‘organic’ plan form and sculptured section and off-form concrete envelope reminiscent of Corbusier’s later work.

This redevelopment reinforces the importance of Birrell’s concept minimising the impact of later additions, to create modern, open, technology rich learning environments. The redevelopment has been designed in three stages.

Conceptual Framework
The completed work is the first stage of a concept design that re-organises all 3 floors of the building: The original undercroft is opened up to create a series of open, interconnected public spaces with the introduction of a new central circulation spine at each level of the building aligning with the Masterplan axis of the campus, incorporating a new south entry to the building, and a re-organisation of its functional zones arranged along the new spine.

Student Reading and Study spaces are positioned to the northern edge of the original building where the full drama of the architecture is revealed.

The new concept responds to the digital-age approach to to information access. The physical collection is relocated along the southern side of the building as a permanently accessible resource leaving more space for interactive and collaborative learning.

The conceptual approach to the interior design is to reveal the original robust design of the building with powerful, off-form concrete walls, voids and striking structure, and respond to this in the design of the new interventions. 

The spatial arrangements, functional planning and detailed design of spaces and furniture incorporate a light and unconstrained language of curves which relate to the original structure.

Program Resolution
The integration of new “student commons” with 24 hour access, and teaching spaces dedicated to new modes of group and interactive learning were core of the brief requirements for this stage of the redevelopment, Stages 2 and 3 relate to the collection and passive learning spaces on the building’s upper levels.

Integration of Allied Disciplines
The reduced height of the original undercroft necessitated complex underfloor services and HVAC ducting. The work required detailed co-ordination of the architecture with the Building Services engineering. Structural interventions were limited but highly sensitive given the exposed nature of the off form concrete envelope and structure.

Public and Cultural Benefit
The new Eddie Koiki Mabo Library re-asserts its importance at the core of the University and gives new life to a marvelous building. It provides the student body with new spaces for shared and interactive learning, reflecting modern pedagogies, supported by pervasive access to electronic data technology.

The new interior street, along with the adjacent Southern Entry and Landscaping, supports the planned re-organisation of the campus Masterplan towards its original Jeffersonian intentions, with the University Library as the head and centre of the campus.

The Eddie Mabo Library at the Townsville Campus of James Cook University is the landmark building of the University. It was originally designed by the prominent Queensland Architect James Birrell in 1966, with an original and organic concept. The building was built as the centre of the university Masterplan, with Construction being staged over several years. The building was extended in 1991 to its present size of 9,500m2. 
The redevelopment of the Library aimed to bring it into the 21st century with the creation of technology rich learning environments of various formats to bring North Queensland University education to the forefront of developments in Tertiary education.

Design Innovation
The redevelopment will create learning and research environments that build on the advantages of electronic data access and the trend to shared and interactive learning.
The redevelopment includes student “commons” which give up to 24 hour access to students to study for study and research with computer and data access as well as study booths and reading areas that support group learning and research.

physical size: 3,500m2
cost: $9.0m
completed: July 2012

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