Tradition meets the 21st century in UTS Central’s Reading Room
- UTS Central (aka Building 2) will include a scholarly Reading Room with triple-height atrium.
- The Reading Room will be open to students, staff and visitors.
- A dedicated stairway connects the Reading Room with the new UTS Library.
On the outside, UTS Central may be a thoroughly modern glass masterpiece but one interior space is taking its cues from the past. It’s a cavernous Reading Room with triple-height atrium inspired by the kinds of traditional scholarly spaces where academics would once read, research and think deeply on their field of study.
A passion project of Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs, the three-level UTS Reading Room – as one of the building’s main public spaces – will occupy one of the most prominent positions in the building’s podium levels, overlooking Alumni Green with direct lines of sight in and out via a wide expanse of glass. Its centrepiece is a light-filled void rising up from the Reading Room’s entry level (level 5) through level 6 to a skylight above level 7.
Learning from the past
Towering floor-to-ceiling Reading Room bookshelves are set to house an impressive collection of reference books, emulating the reading rooms of the world’s great traditional universities. An unusual move for a university of technology? Professor Brungs doesn’t think so.
“An inspiring reading room has always been at the heart of great institutions of learning throughout the centuries, but even our most recent student surveys highlight their desire for exactly this type of space,” he explains. “Through the UTS Reading Room, I want to give our university a place where really profound thinking can take place, free from interruptions or deadlines. In a fast-moving world dominated by technology, I think that’s important.”
Professor Brungs continues, “While the Reading Room will, of course, be technologically enabled, including super-fast WiFi, it will also house some of the most used reference books, as serendipity and books retain a fundamental connection to the great discoveries and breakthroughs that have transformed our world.”
Equally important is the location of the Reading Room. Its prominent position, overlooking Alumni Green, will confirm its significance on campus, while its size and scale are designed to invoke a sense of scale and wonder.
According to James Perry, a senior associate with the building’s architects FJMT (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp), the idea was to create a singular form positioned on the edge of Alumni Green and of a scale that relates to the other UTS buildings around Alumni Green’s perimeter.
“We designed the Reading Room as two spaces – one internal, one external,” he says. “The external space is an outdoor veranda, partially enclosed by clear glass, which spans the full width of the Reading Room facing Alumni Green. Across the three levels (including the main UTS Library level above the Reading Room), three layers of operable and fixed louvres provide shade.”
The Reading Room experience
Entry to the Reading Room is on level 5, with a dedicated stairway connecting levels 5, 6 and 7 (the Library entrance level).
When a student, staff member or visitor enters the Reading Room, their first experience will be of the view out towards Alumni Green, followed by an overwhelming sense of space as the central void opens up to the skylight above.
“The Alumni Green-facing façade of the Reading Room has been designed to have minimal structure and visual interruptions to enhance the visual connection to Alumni Green from within the Reading Room,” explains James Perry. “The columns within the space have also been designed to be impossibly slender to further reduce any visual impact.”
With an almost transparent presence – thanks to its glass façade – and an outlook across Alumni Green, the Reading Room will give the UTS community and visitors a dedicated space for quiet contemplation and reflection at the heart of a buzzing campus.
Open for business
The opening of the Reading Room and adjoining UTS Library with level 8 terrace are pencilled in for late 2019 or early 2020, following the relocation of the Library’s remaining items from its current Haymarket site. Around 70% of the Library’s collection has already been relocated to the Library Retrieval System beneath Alumni Green.
However, for those who can’t wait that long for a peek inside UTS Central, levels 3 and 4 of the new building – including a new food court – are expected to open when construction is completed in mid- 2019.