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History of the State Library of South Australia: Spence Wing

Details the Library's interesting history from 1834, its buildings, legislation, Board membership, staff and exhibitions.

Bastyan Wing opening

The Bastyan Wing was designed by the Government Project Architect Peter Sharp and built by F. Fricker. It was officially opened by the Premier of South Australia, Hon. Frank Walsh on 25 May 1967.  According the the annual report of 1966-67 'This fine new building is of 158,000 square feet in three floors, with provision for a further six floors in the second stage. It is clad on the outside with South Australian marble and granite, and in the main entrance area with red-brown marble from Carrara, Italy. The building cost over $3 million and took 2 and a half years to complete. For the first time in very many years it is now possible to house most of the Board's collections within one structurally connected system of buildings. As predicted by the Board at the time the new building was first planned, the second stage will be needed within a few years.'

At the same time as the building was opened, the name State Library of South Australia replaced the former name, Public Library of South Australia. The opening hours in 1967 were Monday to Saturday 9.30 am to 9.30 pm.

Today the steep ramp up to the entrance to the Bastyan Wing would not meet building standards for disability access, and the redevelopment of the building in 2003 saw the ramp replaced by a ground floor entrance.


Spence Wing opening

The Spence Wing (the renamed Bastyan Wing) opened its doors on 14 July 2003 and was officially opened on 15 October 2003 by the Premier of South Australia and Mr Rupert Murdoch AM of NewsCorp, with special guests Pantijiti McKenzie and a group of indigenous women from Ernabella Arts.

The Spence Wing was the key outcome of a Redevelopment Project which completely refurbished the 1960s Bastyan Building, and provided new links to the two historic Library buildings, the Mortlock Wing and the Institute Building. The link between the rear of the Institute Building and the foyer of the Spence Wing, created an additional new entrance to the Library through the Institute Building.

The project integrated the State Library into the neighbouring cultural precinct by allowing pedestrian access from North Terrace through to the cultural organisations, the University of Adelaide and down to the River Torrens. As well, windows were introduced with outlooks over historic Government House, Migration Museum, Natural Sciences Museum, Armoury, South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia. 

The architectural aims were to make use of natural light and shadow-play throughout the new building, to design spaces so that functions could co-exist with quiet activities traditionally associated with libraries, and to achieve the environmental aim of not increasing power usage per square metre. Priority was given to heritage and preservation considerations, efficient research facilities and the creation of modern surroundings.

Hassell + Mitchell/Guirgola, Thorp was the architectural team for the project: Mitchell/Giurgola had designed new Parliament House in Canberra.  The Managing Contractor was Built Environs, Engineering Services were provided by Bassett, Civil Engineering by Wallbridge and Gilbert, and the Cost Manager was Rider Hunt.

It is fitting that this Wing is named after a writer and social activist, Catherine Helen Spence, who came out to Australia from Scotland in 1839 only three years after European settlement. She became a governess, and was in charge of her own school by 1845. She was the first female journalist in Australia, and her first book, Clara Morison, published in 1854 was the first novel written about Australia by a woman. Her autobiography is full of references to books and she was a great user of the Library's collections, and also lectured in the Institute Building. She is probably best known for her role in women's suffrage and she then stood (unsuccessfully) as a candidate for the 1897 Federal Convention in Adelaide, becoming the first woman political candidate in Australia – the Library has her how-to-vote card.


Building redevelopment facts

Redevelopment awards

Master Builders Association Building Excellence Award 2004 Master Builder of the Year, Commercial Building 2004.
Awarded to Built Environs Pty Ltd for the State Library of SA Redevelopment

Master Builders Association Building Excellence Award 2004 Commercial Refurbishment/Redevelopment.
Awarded to Built Environs Pty Ltd for the State Library of SA Redevelopment

Royal Australian Institute of Architects Sir Zelman Cowen Commendation for Public Buildings 2004.
Awarded to Hassell & MGT Architects Canberra in association for the State Library Redevelopment

Master Builders Association Building Excellence Award 2004 Commendation Finishes Category.
Awarded to Heritage Stone Restorations Finishes category for the State Library of SA Redevelopment, Mortlock Wing stone façade

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects, South Australian Chapter, Award of Merit 2004 Heritage Category.
Awarded to Hassell & MGT Canberra Architects in association, for the State Library of SA Redevelopment

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects, South Australian Chapter Award of Merit 2004 New Building Category.
Awarded to Hassell & MGT Canberra Architects in association, for the State Library Redevelopment

Australian Institute of Building Professional Excellence in Building Awards South Australia 2004 High Commendation 2004.
Awarded to Built Environs Pty Ltd for the State Library of SA Redevelopment

'The project won a high commendation from the judges for its attention to detail in maintaining the operations of the Library as well as ensuring its valuable collections were kept safe from contamination or damage during the project. At a cost of $41 million the project was a major team effort and challenges such as water blasting 5,000sqm of asbestos impregnated resin showcased innovative initiative.' Awarded May 2004

The Property Council of Australia Rider Hunt Award for South Australia 2005.
South Australian Branch Awarded to the State Library of SA for outstanding property development that demonstrates excellence in the efficient use of capital in property development, maximum investor benefits for investment buildings and maximum community benefit for public buildings.

The Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand Limited, SA Chapter South Australian Lighting Design Award of Commendation 2004.
Awarded to Bassett Consulting Engineers for the State Library of SA Redevelopment main foyer lighting