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Candlebark School Library

Interior of earth-covered school library. Interior of earth-covered school library. Photography by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.

Victoria Entries 2012

As a site of learning, reflection and refuge, this largely timber constructed school library resonates with its forested setting in the foothills of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. Built into the side of a hill and with an earth-covered roof, the library preserves an exquisite outlook from the school dining hub above to the open valley below. The library's siting and earth-covered timber construction also afford 245 students and staff safe shelter from possible wildfire.

Sustainably sourced timbers used throughout the project have engaged the hands and hearts of a school community living in harmony with its forest surrounds.

Large billets of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) have been profiled and vertically screw-laminated into massive portal frames exposed internally to form a visually dramatic and gently warped roof structure that fans out like an opening book to the view below. Together with LVL purlins (ripped from portal billet off-cuts), a Radiata Pine plywood roof substrate and some good waterproofing, this timber roof structure supports 500-600mm of earth, grass, a tractor-mower and students at play.

Ceilings are lined with Hoop Pine plywood and finger-jointed Hoop Pine trim. Windows and external doors are manufactured in recycled Blackbutt. A colossal pergola, chunky internal door frames and courtyard benches are of salvaged Monterey Cypress. Modular bookshelves and study tables have been constructed using salvaged Blackwood, recycled Messmate and Hoop Pine.

Engineered timber products have been applied with elegance to address a massive structural challenge. They do this and much more in a context where many would think they shouldn't - in a building that also provides effective wildfire shelter. Complemented by blonde plywoods and salvaged and recycled woods, engineered timber products elicit a warm but powerful architectural expression - a dance amongst the rustic and the refined - a place of strength and solidity that opens to a bright future.
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