Sunday, May 27, 2007

Former State Library of Queensland

Former State Library of Queensland
The building at 159 William Street has a long and auspicious history within the public life of Brisbane. Like many other buildings in the area along William Street, this is another of the city buildings designed by Colonial Architect Francis Drummond Greville (FDG) Stanley. It was modelled on 16th century Italian architecture. Constructed between 1876 and 1879, it was the first purpose-built home for the Queensland Museum.

Former State Library of Queensland
Unfortunately, it proved inadequate for museum purposes. It reopened as the Public Library of Queensland in April 1902. Over the years the collection expanded, and the the library building itself was extended in 1958-59. The name was changed to the State Library of Queensland in 1971. In 1988 the State Library moved to new, larger premises in the Queensland Cultural Centre at Southbank.

Former State Library of Queensland Mural
Along with the historic building, the associated annex with mural by Victorian artist Lindsay Edwards, are still prominent architectural and artistic features on William Street. I believe the building may still be used as a library store, although I also understand that it is partially home to offices of Tabcorp, associated with the Treasury Casino across the road. Hopefully we'll never lose such a unique facade.

Cheers, I Love Brisbane, Wes.

Click Here for the Google Map Reference for this post.


rhodes said...

I have to disagree because of one very significant reason: it should never have been built in the first place, and even more so the somewhat hideous 1950's extension. These buildings block the vista looking out from Queens Park (and adjoining heritage buildings) and, more importantly, likewise ruin the perspective of this trio (Treasury-QPk-Conrad Hotel) from the other side of the river. And from SB it is the ugly rear of these buildings that is visible, nothing remotely of heritage quality. It would be interesting to know if this issue was discussed at the time. Growing up in Brisbane I always thought these were very unfortunately located.
Unfortunately the Italianate stone facade of the original building does have heritage value and so I believe it (the facade only) should be relocated. Some may argue the 1950s mural should also be retained. This may seem outrageous but I believe there is an increasing imperative due to the North Bank plans. I believe these two buildings at 159 William St significantly weakens the argument to avoid occluding the vista (from South Bank) of Queens Park and the Conrad. Witness the first Multiplex NB plan that did exactly that but left most of the Treasury unblocked. Of course there will be a fuss and no one will want to pay for the relocation but with Brisbane Square now complete and North Bank still a very live issue, now is the time to start thinking about finalization of this major frontage to the CBD. Perhaps there could be a competition on where to relocate this facade?

Anonymous said...

@rhodes - the old library (1876-79) predates the construction of the old treasury building (begun 1887), old lands administration office (1901-05), old Family Services Building (1914-22, and even Queens Gardens (begun in 1905 by demolishing buildings that occupied the site but it wasn't until 1962 until it got to be its present size!) so it was never intended that the park looked onto the river.

I find it astounding that you don't see anything of heritage significance about one of the oldest public buildings in Queensland be it the rear or otherwise. The library does have a 'plain' rear as it was intended at the time of construction to be much bigger but financial restrictions stopped further work.

Saying that by retaining only the facade of a building keeps the heritage of a place is simplistic. The significance of any place does not rely solely on what it looks like. It's like saying you are only as good as your face. Many places in Brisbane have had only their facades kept and it's no more than a token gesture to heritage. It's superficial. Have you ever been inside the building that you are so keen to knock down? Plus, the 1959 extension was built to celebrate the Centenary of Separation. It may not be to your taste (and everyone is allowed their opinion on taste) but it doesn't make it valueless. I think the '59 extension is beautiful, especially the mural.

I always find it annoying when people make snap judgments without knowledge of the facts. Thankfully the Northbank plans have been scrapped.