2014 Inception Awards | Katherine Donaldson

Bibliotheca by Katherine Donaldson from University of South Australia

Bibliotheca is a secular space that references ecclesiastical architecture while creating a centre for research and learning. It encourages the continuing pursuit and celebration of knowledge. Encapsulated within a former warehouse, the library and research facility mirrors the grandeur of Gothic Cathedrals, providing an experiential space that evokes wonder and awe. Strict geometric regularity, a strong feature of the Gothic style, informs a complex play of architectural forms.

The traditional practice of embodying educational messages in both the structure and decorative elements of ecclesiastical architecture, has been replaced with a new educational tool, a library itself. Function is therefore separated from the form, breaking with the theist tradition. Spanning five levels, including three subterranean levels, Bibliotheca provides a new social meeting place and integral feature of the city.

Existing external brick walls are reconfigured to limit views into the library, thus heightening the initial internal experience of the space. Branching window frames become a structural feature, extending internally to form structural ribs whilst simultaneously supporting the vaulted roof above. An internal structural framework within the main atrium is offset from the external skin. This framework also incorporates branching pillars that puncture through the floor and descend to the ‘catacomb’ level below.

A gallery structure within the main atrium houses an extensive bookshelf system. The patterning of rear supports references that of book binding and contains integrated ambient lighting.

A vaulted glass and steel roof references the form of Gothic fan vaults, while a pronounced framework is inspired by tierceron ribbing. The roof structure descends to form the side windows and solid sections of roof are positioned to protect the collection from direct sunlight. Dichroic glass replaces stained glass in central sections of the roof. The Dichroic coating has a different transmitted colour and reflected colour, and a two colour shift is noticed depending on the angle of view. Referencing the informative nature of traditional stained glass imagery, Dichroic glass is scientifically informative, demonstrating the inherent nature of light.

Initial views of the internal atrium area are controlled via a central entrance passage that is reached via a minimalist antechamber. The passage, extending two levels to meet the roof, features an installation of glass prisms that cast changing rainbows on the walls. This display of temporality references the secular belief in a constantly changing universe.

The hidden jewel of the library, the ‘catacomb’ level offers a more intimate experience while also offering a location for rare books and amenities.

To incorporate traditionally Gothic stylistic variations, despite the
regularity of modern manufacturing techniques, a crystalline porcelain glaze has been used during the creation of the reading lamps. Each piece is therefore unique with a pattern of zinc-silicate crystals formed in the glaze during the cooling process.

Responding to a brief that called for inspiration to be found in the gastronomical world of the United Kingdom, Bibliotheca echoes the vaulted, symmetrical and decorative forms of antique cake, pudding and jelly moulds. The presentation consists of a 3ds Max render accompanied by hand drawn and ink rendered technical drawings.