The Barr Smith Library, located at Hub central, is the main library for the University of Adelaide, in Australia. The name “The Barr Smith Library” comes from a major sponsor, the Barr Smith Family, which the University Council gave the honour of naming their library after the family in the 1890s.
Tom Elder Barr Smith presented £20,000 to aid the building of a separate structure to house the Barr Smith Library in January 1927. The donation for the library increased to £30,000 by Tom Elder Barr Smith to erect a building that is comfortable and splendid. This building design and construction took place within five years to accommodate and allow for future growth. The need for future development along Victoria Drive to Frome Road was paramount for the library site selection.
Walter Hervey Bagot, a prominent architect who designed the State War Memorial and the Bonython Hall, designed The Barr Smith Library. Walter Bagot believed in expressive architecture. He explained that architecture only achieves its purpose when it truly expresses the character and conditions of life of a people. He used the example of the architecture of Italy and the contrasts of Italian emotional life. Bagot’s logic of race and culture illustrates the way of thinking about artistic expression related to a differentiated sense of the social outlook.
The building utilised red bricks for construction and included finishes with stone dressings, and the entrance leads to the reading room. It was built with stucco and stone, which were major building materials used for construction during this period. The roof construction made use of terracotta roof tiles, and it was assembled to form a high pitch hipped roof which included dormers. The roof eaves were overhanging and boxed with decorative brackets. The building’s front elevation has a front porch with “The Barr Smith Library” written, the porch with Corinthian columns used for support.
The planning of The Barr Smith Library required a lot of thought and relevant guidance from eastern Australian and foreign authorities. The building conserved space by combining a closed-access stack and a reading room containing books. This building could hold a total volume of one hundred and fifty thousand books, with room for two hundred readers in the reading room. The building also had a common room for professors. The Barr Smith Library’s main entrance is through Level 3 of the Hub, and a separate staircase for access to levels 1 and 2. The oak furniture has harmonious tones, parquetry, and decoration pattern of the reading room for a restful effect. This is finished in tones of antique ivory and gold, the one contrasting tint being a soft green, which itself is an echo of the colour of the terrazzo frieze and is connected to the Rexine furniture colour.
The construction of the Barr Smith Library started on the 29th of September 1930 with Mary Isobel Barr Smith laying the foundation stone. The construction lasted for two years, the building opened officially on the 4th of March 1932. The building was appropriate and highly adaptable to the Mediterranean climate due to its classic Renaissance form. The structure is beautiful, magnificent, imposing and seen as a very fine addition to the University. The Barr Smith Library is one of Adelaide’s finest vistas viewed from Frome Road. This building features Classical Renaissance architectural style, with orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters, lintels, semicircular arches, hemispherical domes and aedicula.
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- Walter Hervey Bagot, 1908. “The Spirit of Architecture,” Art and Architecture