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In southwestern Sydney, a new library has been built on the site of former motorsports raceway, Oran Park, where BrandCulture (Sydney) drove the project toward a bold graphic direction.
From 1962–2010, Oran Park Raceway in southwestern Sydney was a destination for thousands of fans to see a range of adrenaline-fueled motorsports. Starting as a small one-mile lap-distance circuit, it was expanded in the 1970s to become a Grand Prix-length (1.63 mi), figure-eight-shaped course. The complex also housed a four-wheel drive course, motocross and dirt tracks, a skidpan and 1000-foot drag strip.
Oran Park hosted the Australian Grand Prix twice, in addition to Touring Car competitions, Superbike World Championships, NASCAR/AUSCAR races and even monster truck rallies. Despite being torn down, the community still holds fond memories of the raceway, which is now the site of Oran Park Town—one of the largest planned communities in New South Wales—currently under construction. Over the next 20 years, Oran Park Town is expected to be home to 30,000 residents.
The brand-new Oran Park Library, designed by architects Brewster Hjorth in collaboration with Camden Council, Greenfields Development Company, Landcom and ADCO Constructions sits at the center of Oran Park Town. The Library serves as a convenient gathering space for the burgeoning development, right next to the new offices of the council government. Affectionately referred to as “the community’s lounge,” it includes flexible-use spaces for art, learning and events—even a café cart.
Midway through the interior design process, Brewster Hjorth Architects brought in a Sydney-based experiential graphic design firm with whom they had a longstanding relationship—BrandCulture—to design a wayfinding system including pictograms, signage and directories with a specific goal of linking the Oran Park Library to the site’s past use.
“Wayfinding plays an important role within libraries, helping people to discover the gems hidden within,” says Nick Bannikoff, design director at BrandCulture, whose team is well-versed in library projects. “Our biggest challenge as wayfinding experts was to design signage and placemaking features that weave the story of Oran Park Raceway into the built environment so that future generations [will] feel connected to its past.”
For the BrandCulture team, the project took two years from kickoff to final completion, with a little less than half a year devoted to the designing the full system from directional and regulatory signage, to directories, window and super graphics. Because Oran Park was such a famous raceway, the council was set upon celebrating the heritage of the site—making the decision process around theming the graphics a swift one. Bannikoff says several of the team’s designers are Formula One fans, so combing through hundreds of photos, vintage race day posters, newspaper clippings and racing memorabilia as part of the project’s research was “a real treat.”
The design team wanted to create something that represented racing as a concept, without becoming too prescriptive of a certain aspect of racing—this became an exercise in form and color. “But which form, shape and color?” muses Bannikoff. “We ended up basing everything on the shape of the racetrack itself. Racing has such a rich and bold graphic legacy, narrowing our focus to a look that wouldn’t be overpowering in the space was a definite challenge.”
The entire wayfinding system is rich with graphic cues at every turn that embody speed and dynamism: retro raceway graphics, racing stripes and a slanting typeface, Swiss 721. Even the directories mimic the curves of Oran Park’s circuit with rounded corners and sharp orange edges—doubly so—as they wrap the corners of the walls.
It was also important to the client to depict the diversity of races that took place there: Supergraphic representations pay homage to the different vehicles and events the racetrack played home to. “There were a couple of key interpretive areas, and it became relatively straightforward in a roundtable discussion to decide what to celebrate,” recalls Bannikoff. “Because there were distinct events that stood out as critical to address—the Formula 1 retrofit and motocross, truck and drag racing as part of the local culture.”
Once the visual language had been developed, the Brewster Hjorth team worked with BrandCulture to ensure the interiors supported the experiential graphic design effort; orange slot car stripes were inlaid in the carpet that echo the turns of the raceway, leading from the front door of the library up to the stairs and back around to the exit into the atrium that separates the library and community center. Through the atrium, the staccato striations of rumble strips define breakout spaces from wall to floor.
Together with the interiors, signage and large-scale environmental graphics in the building needed to be just as compelling as the exterior façade—adorned with a large sculptural element. The unique façade work was thanks to significant budget for art commissions, which was an especially enjoyable part of the project for the design team as they coordinated their efforts with both artists and architects.
Other important considerations were the visibility of amenities and community spaces from the library itself, and the mandate for the library information/checkout desk to be mobile. This mobility facilitated the need for library staff to wear orange identifying badges. “Over the last 10 years, libraries have been developing as community hubs in a rapid-fire fashion,” says Bannikoff. “The evolution of how those spaces are used and managed is something that is definitely reflected in what we do.”
The shift away from a static system and toward ultimate flexibility is a key need in his opinion, because as local libraries are looking forward 10 years, they expect to lose half of those analog books to digital versions and sections like the CD/DVD section will have disappeared altogether. “One of the other changes in libraries, is that they’ve gone from a series of racks of books categorized by author into a system organized and merchandized much like a retail bookstore.”
A delay in sign fabrication—which led to a race to complete temporary signage as the building first opened—aside, the project went off without a hitch, followed by overwhelmingly positive launch with 1,200 community members signing up as members within three months. In addition, Oran Park Library won the prestigious “Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue Outstanding Community Project” award for 2018, recognizing the library as a landmark building—a valuable community asset that is flexible enough to service generations to come.
Project Name: Oran Park Library
Client: Brewster Hjorth Architects
Location: Sydney, Australia
Open Date: 2019
Project Area: 26910 sq ft
Overall Budget: $10,022,390
Architect: Brewster Hjorth Architects
Experiential Graphic Design: BrandCulture Communications
Design Team: Nick Bannikoff (design director), Julian Frood (environmental graphic designer), Sara Tononi (project designer)
Collaborators: Camden Council, Greenfields Development Company, Landcom, ADCO Constructions
Photography: Tyrone Branigan