Customs House Library

Custom Made

Customs House is one of Sydney’s finest colonial buildings located just behind the city’s major ferry hub at Circular Quay, lying between the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The relocation of the City Library to Customs House provided the opportunity to reactivate this historic building and define a new civic heart to the precinct.

The library is located over three levels allowing it to cater for a diverse range of library uses. The design of the library moves between a play of light and dark, active and reflective spaces.

The ground floor is conceived as a public living room for Sydney with newspapers, magazines, internet facilities and multimedia services. Level 1 contains function rooms and a section of the library collection. Level 2 contains more of the library’s collections and culminates in the most reflective room; the main reading room.

At the centre of the building, an atrium cuts through five levels to the sky. The void is lined with sheer white curtains that filter light into the surrounding spaces on all levels. At the centre of the Atrium just beneath the ground floor, the City of Sydney model has been relocated under brightly lit, trafficable glass. Visitors enter into the library directly into this light filled space encountering a surprising and unique experience of the city.

The project has been highly successful with a constant program of activities and events activating the ‘living room’ and public square.

Location: Circular Quay, Sydney NSW, Australia 33°51’43.37″S, 151°12’38.99″E
Date: 2005
Awards: Interior Award, 2006 RAIA NSW Architecture Awards Public/Institutional, 2006 Interior Design Award Highly Commended, National Trust Heritage Wards 2006 Lighting Design – Commendation, IES The Lighting Society, Highly Commended, Australian Property Institute Local, Government Award 2006

Architects in association: Lacoste+Stevenson, PTW (coordinating architects) and Tanner Archtiects (heritage)
Design team: Thierry Lacoste, David Stevenson, Beth Hughes, Tiffany Harper, Andrew Noonan, Matthew van Rijswijk, Antonia Pesenti, James Gardiner, Chloe Lanser, Hugo Moline, Julien Feucht, Jack Barton digital design, David Whittaker, Dianne d’Aalessandro, Ella Vial
Structure: ARUP
Hydraulic and fire: Warren Smith & Partners
Mechanical: Bassetts
Quantity surveryor: Barry Trowse
Acoustic: PKA Acoustic
Contractor: Lucas Stuart
Photography / images: Lacoste+Stevenson Architects, photo – children on glass, photos Paul Gosney, Photo of Iron Architect – Marcus Trimble, SMH page – photographer Kate Geraphty, Lava’s Green Void Installation – Photo Lava