Library for St Josephs Primary School

The two main objectives of the Australian Federal Governments Building the Education Revolution BER economic stimulus package funding were to provide economic stimulus through the rapid construction and refurbishment of school infrastructure and to build learning environments to help children, families and the public participate in activities that will support achievement, develop learning potential and bring communities together. For primary school work, the Government funding was to be used for the building or renewing of large-scale infrastructure works with the priority on libraries, multi-purposes halls and classrooms.

The schools library was housed in the sleeping quarters of a former convent building which was now serving as the schools administration building. The location of the existing library in relation to the schools classrooms was not ideal. The library was at capacity and had no scope to grow with the school population or meet the demands of a modern school library. The canteen was also housed in this building and was cramped and did not meet current hygiene standards. There was no school hall and the school lacked street presence with many local residents being unaware of its existence. The school wanted to address all of these issues with their BER funding allocation of 850,000 AU total project cost including all consultant and approval fees, furniture for hall and library, electronic equipment and canteen appliance fit-out while still achieving a high quality outcome and dynamic learning spaces.

The architect, engineer and builder worked together on this project to ensure a quality outcome within a limited timeframe and budget. The builders contract for the two buildings was for approximately 700,000. Limited time for documentation meant a trusting relationship between the builder, project manager and architect was critical to the success of the project.

The building programs were driven by the need to create strong connections with the existing school buildings. Internal spaces are ordered by requirements for light, ventilation and visual connection to key external views and areas. The new buildings engage successfully with the church and school grounds both through careful material selection the bricks are identical to those used in the original buildings and through careful siting. The obvious presence of the school hall from the street acts to connect the less obvious school with the town centre. The south facing library connects the school to the river and valley below. The two buildings now bookend ones passage through the school with the hall acting as gateway and the library as terminus.

The school library was conceived as an extension and terminus of an existing covered walkway that serves as the schools main circulation artery. The walkway roof was extended and manipulated to create a covered entry to the library which in turn leads on to a viewing window perched at the edge of a steep embankment. This window connects the library with the flood plain below and the river valley beyond. The library volume consists of two long blank parallel walls that provide the bulk of the book storage space. Between these two walls the ceiling rises gently toward the southern viewing window. Light also enters the library through extensive glazing on the northern elevation that opens onto a new timber decked courtyard space. A small volume containing the office adjoins the main library volume and is similarly oriented toward views of the river valley.

Sustainable design considerations for the library included careful orientation and the effective use of materials. The library building was tuned to screen sunlight during school hours with a resultant reduction in heat load. The buildings envelopes and systems exceed the requirements of Section J of the Building Code of Australia BCA in most categories. The library is predominately lit by large north and south facing windows that allow for cross ventilation. The library is air conditioned to compensate for the heat load from electronic equipment. Local materials were used where possible. The dry pressed bricks used on the external walls were sourced 6km from site and are fired by burning waste timber material from a local mill. All timber decking materials were sourced from local mills.

The school now has new presence in the mind of the community that will help attract new students and create a positive impression for visitors. The library in addition to its use as a library has become a popular venue for staff and parish meetings. The buildings are appreciated for their open and well lit characteristics and the students identify well with the spaces and the new facilities.


Project Type


8 Farquhar Street, Wingham, 2429,