A 2011 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) claimed that the rise in Australia's income inequality was among the fastest in the world, arguing that in 2008 the top 10% of Australian earners made nearly 10 times as much as the bottom 10%, compared with an eight-to-one ratio in the 1990s.
Based on this shocking fact, this studio asked if after witnessing that established situations of inequality (in cities such as Johannesburg, Caracas, Detroit, Lima and Sao Paulo) have a tremendous impact on their architecture and urban structures, the growing inequality in Australia could lead to episodes of spatial disaggregation?
The short answer is yes, and the site proposed for the studio is one of the most prominent scenarios where these tensions occur: the urban wall that separates the new multi-million dollar apartments of the Barangaroo development from the row of public housing in High St, Millers Point.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Concept Diagram and Material Diagram
Our design sought to bridge the gap between two communities as well as two ground levels in the design of a community library. Our concept to utilise the existing sandstone material of the site as the primary building material for our design not only draws on influences from conditions in favelas but also creates a strong connection to the site which was formerly a quarry. The use of materials in our design reflects the materiality and atmospheric qualities of a quarry.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Plans and Sections
The central void space can hierarchically be seen as the main space of the library functioning as a theatre and reading area. The spiral circulation connects the various levels of the library whilst allowing for the display of books. The long section through the main void space, accentuates the carved out quarrying of the sandstone slope.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Axonometric of Project Scheme
The axonometric shows the project’s connection to the site and surrounding context as well as the structure and tectonic qualities of the design.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Hickson Road Entrance
Main entrances into the library, on both the upper and lower levels. The solid brick is contrasted by the light transparent glass façade at this point, emphasizing the entrances. The scale of the library is highlighted by the size of the sandstone bricks reflecting the monumental scale of a quarry. The use of steel is also reflective of the temporary materials found in a quarry.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Interior View of Library and Central Void
Internally the main library space is the central void around which a spiral circulation allows access to books and other work areas on the three levels. The sandstone wall is emphasized and utilised as bookshelves.
Sheli Kuperman and Rebecca Ponniah, Physical Models
1:200 scale model and 1:100 sectional detail of the library. The models highlight the contrast of materials, structure and atmosphere of the spaces.