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Change and Continuity at the Dock

Cocooned in quiet at Library at the Dock, I love knowing that this Library rests lightly on the former wharf.

History, present and inspiration for the future combine comfortably here in this 6 star green star building.

The building is constructed from Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), 30% lighter than traditional materials which made it possible for the building to sit on the wharf.

Access to the second level quiet carpeted study is via a central ‘elegant public stair’*. Nine tonnes of recycled ironbark and tallowwood stair was craned into place.

stair library at the dock

The Glulam+ and CLT used to construct the Library arrived through the Port of Melbourne ‘packed into twenty-one shipping containers containing 1600 parcels, 110,000 nails and nearly eight tonnes of brackets – … a flat-pack building in the tradition of Swedish furniture giant IKEA. The building was then put together like a kit of parts and sheathed in the recycled timber.’*

Timber has been coming into the Port of Melbourne since the earliest days. South Wharf, now synonymous with shopping rather than shipping, was where the timber and the coal came in.

Tom Hills recalled the specialisation of wharf work in the twenties:

‘A section of wharfies, south-siders, followed timber – never worked anything else, knew it back to front.’^ It was low value work with little overtime. It could take as long as a month to discharge a vessel. Considerable skill was required to load up a sling of layered small pieces like a pyramid. If the wood spilled out, serious injuries could follow.

Later timber came packed.

south wharf timber

front cover Port of Melbourne Quarterly Oct-Dec 1966

At a recent forum on the future of Fishermans Bend, sustainability experts pressed for the most sustainable materials and methods of construction to be used.

+Glulam is short for glued laminated timber


^Wendy Lowenstein & Tom Hills Under the Hook: Melbourne Waterside Workers Remember Working Lives and Class War: 1900-1980, pp 48/9

*Phillip Goad Grand Civic Ambitions: Library at the Dock 



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