The foundation stone for the library was laid on 3rd July 1854. Its architect was Joseph Reed, whose firm and its successors served the building for a further 50 years. Plans for the octagonal reading room were drawn up around 1908 by Bates, Peebles & Smart, with the reinforced concrete dome largely based on a design prepared by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co — with the reinforcement replaced by Kahn bars.
The conservation project required extensive investigation, analytic and survey works to various parts of the building complex, including leak analysis in the Reading Room using thermographic imaging, render analysis, and detailed surveys of the Swanston Street facade plus the exteriors of the Tulk and dome buildings. The scope of works included external repairs to the West and North links, repairs to some facades on Little Lonsdale Street, replacement of the tanking membrane on the flat surface around around the dome, improved stormwater handling for the dome roof, render repairs to the west facade, external painting and the installation of new facade lighting.
The exterior of the dome drum is cement stucco, originally finished with a bright gold-yellow (Copperas) render, remnants of which were discovered during the project. Trials of washcoating systems were made using different foms of liquid Copperas and liquid cement, raising various issues, such as the nature of the originally intended opacity and the need to mask render patch repairs. The public profile of the building and the potential impact of a significant colour change was also considered … see Conservation of the State Library of Victoria: Case Study by Dan Blake, given at Australia ICOMOS Conference 2015 … read now
The site posed considerable challenges in the complexity and scale of the buildings, which are difficult to access. In addition, the dome has little spare structural capacity, making survey and repair works challenging. It was also a requirement that the works did not interrupt the ongoing operations of the buildings. A lightweight scaffolding system suspended from the drum was used to access the Reading Room exterior.
Share this page