Situated in a sweeping valley surrounded by prominent mountain ranges, the small regional town of Moe in Victoria’s Gippsland is viewed as the poor cousin of its neighbours. Unemployment is high and there has been no recent development with residents having to travel for key services. There was a real sense of expectation when the hoarding came down at the old car park site on the rail line as the new library and community building were unveiled.
A gently curved and stepped platform of landscape and concrete follows the line of the railway, shielding the noise and impact of the trains while opening up to the town centre to create a new sunlit public square and community focus. Suspended above this curved podium and dramatically cantilevering over the pubic space are two timber clad volumes oriented directly down the main street, and forming a focus for this civic vista.
These wooden portals that frame views to the mountains, placed carefully on a landscaped platform that form the public square have created a new civic heart and identity for the town of Moe. It is truly a place for everyone to feel welcome and included, a place that brings the community together and that marks the shared aspirations of the town.
Moe has a new sense of place and a new way to appreciate its natural beauty. Officially named the Frank Bartlett Library and Service Centre, the project has reinvigorated a town previously bifurcated by the rail line and lacking a central community gathering space. Dubbed simply ‘the community centre’ by locals, the building provides a strong and vibrant civic heart uniting all demographics and connecting dislocated precincts of the town.
The community is embracing opportunities for markets, festival and public events. Latrobe City Council has invited residents to use the facilities to start community groups based on their personal interests, and enjoy the dynamic space designed to be led and owned by locals. During construction, locally sourced materials and trades were used encouraging sustainable outcomes and boosting the local economy.
Within a modest budget, the architecture seeks an inviting and open monumentality; a significance and dignity; achieved through a sensitive urban transformation and carefully crafted materials and assembly.