The award-winning Architect, Enrico Taglietti, created his Brutalist building for the St Kilda Library, with the aim of it to be
“a place where people feel more alive’.
The St Kilda Library’s bold and embracing architecture is a place of respite within the busy clutter of Carlisle Street. The building invites its visitors to sit on the ledges, gather in its courtyards and participate in the experience of the creative word.
Italian born, Mr Taglietti is one of the country’s national treasures and winner of Australia’s most prestigious Architectural award, the RAIA Gold Medal in 2007. The St Kilda library is one of his earlier works and was officially opened May 14 1973. The St Kilda library promotion committee was established in 1951 to rally support for its erection. Sheer determination paved the way through episodes that could have derailed the project on several occasions.
In 1954, Twelve Councillors refused to give the city a free library.
‘I rely on you ladies to get the councillors wives on our side’ quoted The Angus in its December issue 1954.
As Mr Taglettis prominence as an important Australian Architect grows, examples of his work become highly valued. Builders, M. Notkin Construction of South Caulfield, were appointed to construct the building which cost $417,000 at the time, the current price of an apartment in the area. The Brutalist design is a contemporary period piece of 1960-70’s architecture and within the interior, a mural by Mirka Mora adds to the artistic collateral of the project.
“Visitors may then be able to relax around coffee tables, admiring or criticizing displays of paintings…Mr Taglietti wrote in his original proposal.
The architect planned for the building to be used as a refuge.The public are sheltered within its thick walls and can linger in its quiet Japanese courtyards. The outside world keeps its noisy distance. Warm timber ceilings contrast the cool grey concrete that is sculptured into a solid earthy structure. The lofty outdoor roof provide shade and shelter as people gather beneath it on the massive trapezoidal walls ledges to chat or access the Wi Fi.
The Australian Library Journal of 1973 claimed that the building was ‘handsome and visually exciting’
The building has since been renovated to cater for the expanding community, without consultingTagletti, The changes to the building include a side entrance and a new front section. The original counter was situated under an elevated roof with a skylight, in what is now the middle of the building. The new front section is expansive and moulded into the shape of a book. The changes are admired and appreciated by some but not all.
Mr Taglietti was not impressed, he was baffled as to why he was not consulted or at least notified of alterations to the original building. The Architect claimed that the entry was a key aspect. Mr Taglietti was disappointed and hoped plans were being made to return it to its original state.
“They totally disregarded the original’ Mr Tagletti claimed in an exclusive interview.
The entrance courtyard was to be “the nucleus” of the design. This area has since been built over despite the council overlay that regards the building as significant and claimed that the front , including the original air conditioner tower was ‘ integral to the design’.
Mr Tagletti said that “it was a shame’
“There should be protection of my moral right in that building, it should have been recognised by another”. He claimed in a tone of sheer disappointment.
Mr. Tagletti came to Australia to break away from the confines of tradition in Europe and explore vivid modern constructions. He has designed the Dickson Library, the Italian Club, the Apostolic Nunciature, Giralang Primary School and the War Memorial Annexe, in Canberra where he resides.
Article: A Forward / Photography: Ian Paradine