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The Word - design thinking for our time
The Word, the new library and media centre in South Shields, is open - with an ambition to revolutionise design thinking for 21st century library spaces.
20 October 2016
Certainly, the round building, designed by FaulknerBrowns, is set to become an icon of the town centre redevelopment. Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, opening the new venue, was clear that the council recognised the challenges of a declining civic and retail town centre and the role of The Word in revitalising civic pride in the region. Plans include a new transport interchange, a cinema and the renewal of specialist retailing in the town.
The Word – a national ambition
The focus of The Word is very clearly regional, but it has for its strapline ‘The National Centre for the Written Word’. How much of this is hyperbole and how much a genuine ambition to become a beacon for the transformation of libraries as cultural and civic centres, combining the tradition of the printed word with new technology and individual creativity, remains to be seen. But there is no doubt that The Word has set the standard for design thinking in the UK.
The entrance to The Word opens up into a triple height atrium with a stunning feature staircase which takes visitors to Levels 1 and 2. There is a large exhibition space and display pod hosting a rolling programme of exhibitions.
This floor also features the café, adult fiction books, gaming zone and email bar. Visitors will also see wooden pages of a book that form a trail around The Word. These are a collection of stories known as Tyne Voyages by Michael Chaplin.
The first floor is home to the local studies collection, an enhanced family history area, learn and discover IT area, the reference library, and the Caer Urfa Pod with a rolling programme of exhibitions linked to South Tyneside’s archives.
Wonderful views of the River Tyne can be enjoyed through telescopes provided in The Lens, where there are interactive touch-tables with a number of activities linked to South Tyneside’s heritage and archives with shipwrecks, images and a live ship tracking app.
A creative space for children
StoryWorld@The Word provides visitors with an immersive storytelling experience, with sound and visual projections capturing imaginations. FabLab is a creative space for children, young people and adults to hone their creative interests with access to 3D printers, vinyl and laser cutters as part of a programme of workshops.
A digital media wall hosts a number of drawing and colouring activities from designing a comic, to illustrating a story book. OpenZone@The Word supports schools through digital learning and ICT. OpenZone boasts state-of-the-art IT suites, a media studio and access to the FabLab and offers a programme of activities and workshops.
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