Monday, July 16, 2007

Max Webber Library via the M7 Sydney Electronic Toll Road

The Blacktown Central Library relocated to a new building in western Sydney. The is was reviewed in Architecture Australia magazine, so I thought it worth a visit:
Surprisingly transparent, FJMT's new library for Blacktown seeks to draw in the community while also expressing the building's civic function.

The design of the Max Webber Library addresses the nature of public buildings in contemporary society and the meaning of this particular type of public building in generally under-resourced outer suburbs such as Blacktown in Sydney. Architects FJMT argue that, as a building type, the library is "the most meaningful twenty-first-century public building". ...

From: Max Webber Library, by Tom Heneghan, Architecture Australia, May/June 2006.
One thing the article did not explain is why the building is called "Max Webber", or which person by that name it is named for.

The library building is impressive, and functional. It is an oasis of calm from the adjacent shopping center. But the building is not perfect. The louvers in the glass walls praised in AA have not been correctly adjusted, admitting direct sunlight to the first floor reading area. This makes reading difficult. Also the staircase through the centre of the building looks impressive from a distance, but close up gaps beside each step are collecting dust balls.

Like the National Libraries and some state libraries, wireless Internet access is being offered. But this is only available to borrowers. Also the public access Internet terminals were not functioning when I visited.

Map of Westlink M7 MotorwayGetting from Blacktown back to Canberra was a high technology experience along the Westlink M7, (Western Sydney Orbital) electronic toll road. This 40km road runs north to south through the west of Sydney. Electronic tags and number plate scanning are used for tolling vehicles. The roadworks also have architectural merit:

Arcing across Sydney’s west, the new M7 motorway, by Conybeare Morrison and Context, is the result of a successful collaboration between the disciplines of urban design, landscape design and engineering. ...

The M7 team has achieved a high-quality outcome, sensitive to its sculptural form, to its structure, to its place in the city and to its local environment. The success comes from the integration of the skills of the urban and landscape designers with those of the road and bridge engineers. Perhaps the ensemble would have had greater success with the inclusion of a public artist.

From: Westlink M7, by Peter Mould, Architecture Australia, January/February 2006.
I thought the restrained use of some colour on the motorway was better than the over-scale "look at me!" sculpture of Melbourne's CityLink toll road.

e-TAG electronic toll deviceThe one account can now be used for several Australian toll roads.

As I don't have an electronic tag (which operates via microwaves) in my car I had to pay afterwards via a web site (my car number plate was recorded electronically).

electronic toll detector on Westlink M7 SydneyUnlike the Melbourne's CityLink electronic toll road, the M7 appears to only have toll detectors at entrances and exist to the road. This is likely to be less annoying for motorists than the Melbourne system, when the RFID e-Tag will beep several times during a trip to indicate an extra toll has been paid.

Cycleway  beside Westlink M7 SydneyThe M7 also features 40 km of sealed bicycle paths and walking paths with lighting along much of its length. There is no charge for cyclists or pedestrians on these paths. The highway goes through open countryside for much of its length, but for how much longer, with the road stimulating development?

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