The library provides over 1200 study spaces, open access space for nearly 300,000 print and audio-visual items from the Library’s collections, a dedicated archives and special collections area, social spaces, a café, and staff accommodation over five floors.
Occupying a long narrow site close to the college lake, the library encloses one side, suggesting a college quadrangle.
Organised on a rigid construction grid and modelled around a large, light-filled atrium, each floor slightly adjusts its layout with modular volumes and partitions dividing the space according to the functions required. With central circulation extending the length of the building, the spaces are legible and accessible, aided by clear wayfinding and signage.
The internal volumes are baffled by felt and timber slatting throughout the library, and lit from above by six large skylights, creating bright spaces without glare. The central staircase provides an ideal spot from which to enjoy the internal architecture.
2018 RIBA National Award – longlisted for Stirling Prize
2018 RIBA London Award
2018 New London Architecture: Education – commended
Type of library
Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios
Features and services
Cafe/refreshment areas, Group study spaces, Open learning provision, Specialist subject collections, Teaching rooms, Exhibition display areas, Meeting rooms, Provision of special materials.
The building itself has been described as having a Classical language – including a colonnade facing the landscape and lake, piano nobile floors, and a recessed upper storey. This is continued with a simple palette of high quality masonry and bronzed window treatments.
One notable feature is the metal frieze abutting the main façade windows, spelling out the word Library translated into all the World’s written languages.
A key part of the project was the extensive use of prefabricated elements to reduced construction time and disruption to the surrounding University. The internal spaces are described by these prefabricated, repeated elements, with fair-faced concrete ceilings and columns, and regularly spaced windows.
Study spaces within the Library are intended to support a variety of group sizes and work intensities, from individual silent study to medium sized group collaboration. The core of the library is taken up by book stacks and voids, allowing study spaces to occupy the perimeter of the building, taking advantage of the light and views across the campus through the full height windows
Staff are accommodated in a large open plan office.
The Library is designed to be a passive building in energy and comfort terms, with highly insulated façades, high levels of airtightness, and roofs supported by a thermally activated building slab (TABS) system installed into the concrete soffits.
The building also has a roof-mounted 3.5kW photovoltaic array and connection to a combined heat and power unit that also supplies the neighbouring hall of residence and conference centre.
Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios
Thomas Matthews – Wayfaring and Signage design
The Senator Group – furniture fit out
Bruynzeel – Shelving
Services and facilities suppliers
Bibliotheca – RFID self issue and book sorter returns, security gates
RFID, WiFi, charging points, device lending