Sydney Architecture Images- Northern Suburbs

Macquarie University Library


Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp


Macquarie University




Millennium Moderne 




Special thanks to Andrew Chung
That library is being built at Macquarie University, which will become the first Australian university to install a robotic crane as part of an automated storage and retrieval system. By putting 80 per cent of its stack in a compressed space, the university can keep its collection on site.

The new $70m Macquarie University Library will be built on vacant land south of buildings W3A, C3A and C3B along Macquarie Drive and will open in 2010. Designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp it represents a new generation of library design – full of dynamic spaces for learning, rather than the traditional notion of a library only as a quiet, storage facility for printed materials.

Project Overview

The new library at Macquarie University is an innovative, welcoming and inspiring landmark building for the University. It represents a new generation of library design — full of dynamic, collaborative, open spaces for learning, rather than traditional notion of a library as a quiet, storage facility for printed materials. The transparent and inviting forms of the building open to embrace and define the new University Common, welcoming students, staff and the public to this new place of learning. It is a radical new library characterised by new opportunities for learning, exchange and interconnection, filled with daylight, fresh air & landscape
Project Team

Macquarie University
Mark Middlebrook

Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp
Richard Francis-Jones

Structural and Civil Engineer - Taylor Thomson Whitting
Mechanical, Electrical, Lighting, Communication, Security & Vertical Transportation Engineers - Steensen Varming
Hydraulic & Fire Services - Warren Smith & Partners
Fire Engineering & BCA - Stephen Grubits & Associates
Landscape Architect - Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp
Acoustic Engineer - Acoustic Studio
Quantity Surveyor - Davis Langdon
Access - Accessibility Solutions
Planning - JBA Urban Planning
Geotechnical Engineer - Douglas Partners

Project Brief

The Macquarie University campus was originally designed to include a single library located centrally as a physical symbol of the University’s unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching, learning and research activity. The University’s aspirations for the new library building as a key campus facility and as a 21st Century learning environment are embodied in the following principles:
1. High profile building symbolising a “new beginning” at Macquarie - The key design concepts for the building comprise: light and connection; and strong sense of place.??2. Primary focus on client space - learner-centred design with 3,000 flexible, configurable study spaces based on new approaches to learning space design for new generations of students, including students with special needs, researchers and postgraduate students; and 24/7 operation –achieved with different building zones and minimisation of separate service??3. Secondary focus on physical collections - Incorporation of an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) for 1.8 million physical volumes to reduce the floor space required by the print collections and improve service delivery and open access shelving for 450,000 - 500,000 physical volumes.??4. Environmentally sustainable design with low maintenance costs and durable finishes with an objective to achieve 5 Stars Greenstars Education Tool. The new library briefed to be a place of research which is celebrated and accessible, reflecting the aspiration of the University and creating a new heart of the campus. The architecture should symbolise and enhance the university image as a leading educational and research institution.

Project Innovation / Need

The new Library includes Australia’s first automated document storage and retrieval system that allows the same volume of material (1.8 million books) to be stored in the new building in about one-seventh of the original floor space. Eighty per cent of Macquarie’s collection will be housed in this automated collection system. The arrangement of the built form itself has been configured to create an extension of the natural parkland ground plane over the podium. The design puts the majority of the open collection which require no natural light below ground. In this way the open space of the university is extended and enhanced while the form of the new building becomes more human and accessible in scale. It brings the landscape into the building, reflecting natural daylight and shelters in a way that is directly inspired by the forest of eucalypts on the campus. This also allows the incorporation of significant green roofs for water harvesting It is the unique requirements of this brief that has inspired a design of layered spatial zones retained by concrete walls and terraces that radiate in an organic geometry, responding to natural daylight and acoustics, layered with courtyards, skylights, glazed screen concrete walls and terraces.
It is a radical new type of library characterised by opportunities for learning, exchange and interconnection, filled with natural daylight, fresh air and landscape. Generous atrium walkways and social spaces connect all levels and facilitate formal and informal knowledge exchange between students, researchers and staff.
Design Challenge

The main challenge for the building design is to embody the University’s aspiration while providing for the following: demanding briefed accommodation; constraints of the project budget; the principles defined by the Campus Development Plan and a tight delivery programme.
While the new library represents a new beginning for Macquarie University, it is very different to the existing campus built form. The landmark quality and radical form ensure the new library will stand apart, while clearly ‘belonging’ and enhancing this beautiful and uniquely Australian Campus.
The incorporation of Australia’s first automated document storage and retrieval system means there were no local experience or precedents on this component. Challenges lie in the timely coordination with overseas specialist to ensure the delivery of the brief and integration to the architecture.
The unique requirements of this brief that has inspired a design of layered spatial zones with key components of the library strategically distributed and structured vertically over the built form. These arrangements presented various challenges in relation to equity, natural daylight and acoustical considerations etc. Balancing between the aspiration of a new library which is open and transparent, but appropriate to its function.
In addition to a tight budget and programme, another main challenge is the process to achieve sustainability within the constraints of not having a recognised environmental performance rating system for education buildings at the time of design, but with the client brief for the project reached a 5 star Green Star rating at completion.