Skip to Content

Our studios


11.10.21 All media
Buchan revitalises Ipswich CBD with Australia’s first dedicated children’s library

Australia’s first standalone children’s library in Ipswich is bringing families and young people back into its previously deserted city heart.

The whimsical space, designed by global design studio Buchan, is part of Ipswich City Council’s ongoing $250m CBD redevelopment.

The purpose built library dedicated for children under 12 years is located on the ground floor of the new administration building, in the revitalised Nicholas St precinct. It holds more than 35,000 items and features innovative technology and digital experiences, including two life-sized dinosaurs suspended from its ceiling.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said the children’s library, which opened in late June, attracted more than 22,000 people through its doors in its first month alone.

“The Children’s Library was purposely placed in the centre of the CBD to help activate the space and to house this new facility somewhere central and accessible for our tens of thousands of members,” Mayor Harding said. “Ipswich is Queensland’s fastest growing city, with that growth being driven by young families, so it makes sense to provide a space for families to socially connect.”

Buchan Brisbane principal and director Todd Crighton described the children’s library as a fun and vibrant space with a distinct urban presence.

“The children’s library has been conceived as part of a greater social gathering place, with diverse landscapes, retail, dining and entertainment offerings all orientated towards families,” he said.

The facility is located in one of the CBD’s most valuable parts of the ground plane. The children’s library occupies a northerly aspect, is closest to the Bremer River and features its own external garden area while also sharing the public plaza.

“This fosters the significance of children in our community and the relationship with the urban/city environment,” said Crighton, a former longstanding Ipswich resident. “Their space is ‘front and centre’ in the civic heart, sharing the entry door of the new Ipswich Council home and plays an important role in the re-occupation of Nicholas St.”

Crighton said the space features unconventional interactive artworks and visual technologies that challenge the traditional concept of a children’s library.

“The interior is vertically defined by a sculptural reading tree, which shares a dialogue with the adjacent mature vegetation along the Bremer River — a relationship that the city sadly hasn’t embraced in the past,” Crighton said.

The tree provides an escape for young people to rest and read in its hollow. Its real impact, however, is seen from afar. The tree’s location in the children’s library makes it the central focal point visible from the administration lobby and right across the civic plaza from the main library.

Integrated lighting accentuates the angular trunk and branch shapes to emulate the changing shape of a tree, but is also a subtle nod to the angled façade of the admin building. The tree trunk is surrounded by scattered leaf shape ottomans so the space is well utilised for story time. Folded acoustic panels with up lighting have been used to imitate the tree canopy, while also serving the practical acoustic requirements of the space.  The organic varied shades of green in the carpet tile beneath the tree mimic the shadows of the canopy, and the varying densities of grass.

Buchan head of Interiors Valerie Mack described the children’s library as a destination in itself.

“Every aspect of the design has been created exclusively for young people, right down to shelving and furniture heights, interactive activities, hidey holes and reading nooks,” she said. “Unlike the children’s section in most other main libraries, this is a space where everything is for the kids; they haven’t been made to fit around everything else.”

Children are able to feed the resident Plesiosaurs through a pneumatic pipe interactive experience and watch the ‘food’ they give zip around the pipes.

Books are sorted into kid-friendly categories and feature pictorial cues to suit interests.

Augmented reality brings hand drawings to life, allowing kids to colour in a fish or prehistoric creature, scan it, and watch as it appears and moves on two large interactive screens. There is also a ‘magic mirror’ that children can stand in front of to watch butterflies swarm around them, and even land on them if they stand still enough.

Tucked away in a corridor space, is a quiet zone that is a surprise for children to find. Curved nook shelving house feature collections designed to constantly change. The sinuous shelves offer colourful, upholstered recesses for children to relax and read.

A separate event space with modular furniture and stage pieces is used for louder activities and yarning circles. There is also a secured external reading area outdoors.

Family centred placemaking continues outside the library with indigenous landscaping featuring sculptures of native animals for children to explore.

Mayor Harding said Council had ongoing plans for more children’s programming and events in Tulmur Place and the Ipswich Art Gallery. “Kids are an important and growing demographic in the city and Council is committed to building more events, services, resources and facilities to meet their needs,” she said.

“Council appreciated Buchan’s fun and creative approach to the brief and their collaboration with the Libraries team to design Australia’s only dedicated public library for children.”

Nicholas St Precinct marks a new era for Ipswich

Ipswich City Council’s new administration building, designed by Buchan, offers a central location for all Council departments for the first time in decades. Design aspects at 1 Nicholas Street focus on the city’s rich heritage, with the use of tone, colour and limestone recognising the importance of Ipswich mining to Queensland’s industrial development.

As a teenager who grew up in Ipswich during the late 70’s and early 80’s, Crighton said Nicholas St was once the genuine heart of the vibrant town centre.

“Sadly for some decades and for a variety of reasons, it lost its way,” he said. “This development begins a process that will enable Ipswich to rejuvenate and reconnect with the community.

“It pulls the focal point towards the Bremer River, a local landmark which played a significant role in Ipswich’s past, but not to the detriment of Brisbane St where the original architectural fabric has been generally retained.”

The architect said Nicholas St was being sensitively shaped on the fundamental principles that existed from years-gone-by — “a place for people to come together, to be entertained, catch up for chat and coffee while the kids play in the fountains”.

“The operational needs are simple and humble, yet have the influence to provide a destination that is meaningful for both the local residents and visitors alike,” Crighton added.

The 1 Nicholas St administration building features a two-storey inverted podium, with seven-stories of offices above. It also includes three basement levels for parking, bicycle storage and end-of-trip facilities.

It has a 5-star green rating which means it incorporates sustainable design, materials and management. This includes smart glass, a reflective colour scheme, solar panels, environmentally friendly glues and modern construction techniques. Natural timbers have been used throughout.

The administration building sits adjacent the new civic square and forms part of the wider redevelopment of the northern end of the former shopping centre. The civic plaza, also designed by Buchan, includes an urban water park and main public library, which opened earlier in 2021.

Buchan Design Team

ICC Administration Building & Children’s Library

Gerry Holmes – Project Director

Magda Kowalczk – Design Architect

Greg Cochrane – Project Leader

Paul Cardillo – Documentation

Anu Chembrolu – Documentation­

Kathryn Grant – Interior Design Project Leader

Laura Pirlo – Interior Design

John McCrystal – Graphic design/Statutory Signage

Gary Edmonds – Graphic design/Statutory Signage

Patrick Shirley – Façade LED Lighting/3D visualisation

Anthony Rawson – Façade LED Lighting

Bruce Hart – 3D visualisation

ICC Adult Library, Tulmur Place & Carpark

Gerry Holmes & Todd Crighton – Project Director

Tim Jensen & Todd Crighton – Design Architect

Katrina Tolhurst – Project Architect

Mick Noble – Documentation

Peter Haswell – Documentation

Sarah Mayers – Documentation

Louisa Edwards – Interior Design

John McCrystal – Graphic design/Statutory Signage

Gary Edmonds – Graphic design/Statutory Signage

Patrick Shirley – 3D visualisation Bruce Hart – 3D visualisation

Photography | Mindi Cooke (internal) and Alanna McTiernan (external)