National Library of Australia: the quiet achiever..

The very pleasant part of living in Canberra is that the city is designed within a landscape, and even the heart of the city is surrounded by  space and bush land.

National Library of Australia in winter

Today we are off to the National Library of Australia, my favourite building in Canberra, surrounded by trees, greenery and the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin.

Developers are eyeing off other parts of the lake for a hotel and blocks of apartments, so what better time to appreciate what we do have and can never be changed.

To add to the mix, we are taking our old car for a drive into the city. It has been neglected lately and we know our 25 year old car needs regular drives to keep it going…(it has been largely replaced by our newer car…but not a word to Bessie).

So here goes, may this be the first of weekly drives, in our dear old Magna, and perhaps inspiration for a few blog posts as well.

In 1927 the National Library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra with the relocation of Parliament.

Canberra, as a new, planned city, was not entirely welcomed by the bigger established cities in Australia, until Robert Menzies became Prime Minister in 1939.  He gave Canberra his complete support, and also took a great interest in the building of the National Library of Australia.

Planning for the building of the library began in 1961, and there were many differences of opinion:  position, finances, compromises…

Harold White, the first National Librarian threatened to ‘‘throw in the towel” if a purpose built National Library was not built.

Finally, an Act of Parliament in 1960 formally separated the National Library from the Parliamentary Library and a new building for the National Library’s growing collections and services was opened on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in 1968.

An emotional Harold White said at the opening of the National Library ‘‘after 40 years in the wilderness, the Library had finally reached ”The Promised Land”

Oh such passion for a building!

Would we have this today?

Robert Menzies Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41) (1949-66)

The National Library of Australia was designed by the architecture firm, Bunning and Madden, with  associate Tom O’Mahony. Noel Potter was appointed as the Library architect by Robert Menzies.

The principal architect  Walter Bunning considered the library to be his most important project (his ashes would be scattered in the sight of the Library in Lake Burley Griffin following his death in 1977.)

He described the building as being ”a contemporary building in the spirit of classical design.”

There is something very calm and welcoming about the Library, perhaps it is the cool marble floors in the foyer, the space, the quiet environment.

In a previous blog post I have used a quote by Minnie Aumonier about a garden, but perhaps if I could change garden to the National Library

”when the world wearies, and society does not satisfy, there is always the National Library.”

The foyer has a lovely bookshop on the left, and a cosy popular cafe called Bookplate on the right. Each of these has the stunning multicoloured stained glass Leonard French windows.

Although we arrived early, it is late summer, and the sun is streaming through the building and across the stained glass windows. Lovely to look at, but hard to photograph..

Our family, over many years, have enjoyed the National Library’s many tours, exhibitions, book launches, discussions. My daughter reminded me that she and friends studied here while at University. Paul is a regular visitor here while doing his PhD, and we often meet friends and family there for coffee/lunch and walks.

Getting ready for a walk around the lake before coffee!

No wonder the writer Marian Halligan said she could never leave Canberra because she could never leave the National Library!

Not far from the National Library along the water’s edge, is a long row of mature Manchurian Pears, a master stroke of landscape planning. They provide shade in summer, colour in autumn and spring, and beauty all year round.

For many Canberrans these trees mark the changing of seasons every year..

Instagrammers love this part of the lake..

In his speech at the opening of the National Library, PM Robert Menzies said

“despite the beauty of the building, the grandeur and classical dimensions, the true quality and international stature (of this building) lies in the collections contained within the building. These are the ‘‘great interpreters of the past to the present, the present to the present, and the present to the future”

Many thanks to the former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, to the architects, and to Harold White, and most of all to Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion, without whom Canberra would not be the garden city we have today.

Hope springs eternal that communal land will remain for everyone.

Thanks for visiting Canberra’s Green Spaces, and we hope to have many more (slow) drives around Canberra this year.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

22 thoughts on “National Library of Australia: the quiet achiever..

  1. Susan Hutton

    What an inspirational post and a beautiful building, may no developer be able to get their grubby hands on it ever!

    Reply
  2. Theresa Higgins

    I loved reading about this little bit of history. The surrounds really do look so serene – and oh, the joys within!

    Reply
    1. germac4 Post author

      Thanks Judy… as it is a national library it is open to everyone, but the books & materials cannot be borrowed & must be used in the library…
      ..so we still love our ordinary borrowing libraries ❤️

      Reply
  3. Laurie Graves

    I am with Susan. What a post! So inspirational. And this piece beautifully illustrates how important it is for public money to be spent for the common good. In recent years, that concept has taken a big hit in my country, but I hope better days will be coming. Anyway, what a gem that library is, and Menzies quotation should be emblazoned everywhere.

    Reply
      1. germac4 Post author

        That pelican rules his little part of the lake! I think Menzies was “a mixed bag” by the end of his time as PM.

        Reply
  4. Sylvia

    Gorgeous pelican capture, Gerrie. The library is in such a beautiful setting and those trees were a brilliant idea. Menzies must have been a very popular Prime Minister to have served for so many years.

    Reply

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