Atrium being used for Open Day


Bridges front of the atrium, social seating on 1st and 2nd floors, café seating at ground floor


Postgraduate Research Room with outdoor study terrace behind


Internal view of group room with woodland behind


Exterior view of group rooms projecting out towards the woodland


Social seating in the High Use collection


Feature Wing showing rooflight and use of natural light


Interior of the Feature Wing, showing study furniture and views across the square


Front view showing Founder’s Square with the Emily Wilding Davison Building facing




The Emily Wilding Davison Building opened its doors in September 2017 and was formally opened on 18th October 2017 by Princess Anne, Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal and Chancellor of the University of London. The building, named after the famous suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, a student at Royal Holloway in 1893, brings together a range of student-facing services under one roof. It is the physical manifestation of a strategy to put students first and to deliver consistent, joined-up services to enhance the student experience. The building brings together an extensive new library, a student services centre, a careers and employability service, exhibition and events spaces, a café, a shop and bank.

The library forms the largest part of the building, replacing the previous two-site operation apart from the original Victorian reading room, restored and renovated in the Founder’s building in 2018.

The case for an improved and enlarged library had been articulated strongly by students over a number of years, in particular as the student population grew from approximately 4,500 in 1993 to nearly 10,000 in 2017.


By February 2013, the key principles of function and design underpinning the new library had been agreed:

  • meet changing social trends and behaviours
  • reflect the size, shape and anticipated growth of Royal Holloway
  • reflect trends of information-seeking behaviour
  • meet the needs of the smartphone generation
  • be IT rich and satisfy the digital, networking and connectivity demands of its users
  • flexibility, providing a balance between research and learning space
  • easy to use, focusing on self-service where possible
  • comfort and sense of place
  • environment conducive to reflection and silent study, whilst also providing collaborative study space and group study rooms
  • cultural dimension through displays and events
  • open all hours
  • collocation with other essential facilities and services that students and researchers need as they live their day and plan their future
  • provide postgraduate research students with an exclusive research and study environment

Design and Construction

Work began on site in July 2015 and construction was completed in summer 2017. Planning principles were realised, including  the following:

  • 10,600 sqm, gross internal floor area (whole building), adding 13% of new academic space
  • atrium covering the street and joining all the services within the building
  • Library opening hours: 24/7/350
  • 11,000 linear metres of shelving
  • reading room dedicated to postgraduate researchers
  • high use teaching collection  (1.5 km of fixed, open shelving on Ground Floor populated with essential and recommended reading list materials)
  • bookable group study rooms
  • archives reading room
  • purpose-built storage space to PD5454 standard for preservation of archive collections
  • art store, quarantine room
  • exhibition space meeting government indemnity standards
  • open plan office for all library staff, enabling staff to work more efficiently together

The design incorporated external space between the new building and the magnificent Victorian Founder’s Building directly opposite. The landscaping of the space and its transformation into Founder’s Square have provided a focal point at the heart of the campus and Royal Holloway’s community.


When the Davison Building was opened, student reaction was captured throughout the building on boards to which students could apply post-it notes giving their feedback and impressions. This was overwhelmingly positive and was captured in a ‘Wordle’.


The Building

The Building

Type of library

Central/main library/LRC; Multi-purpose/joint-use or shared service building


6232 m2




Associated Architects (architect);
Plincke Landscape Architects (Founder’s Square)

Building contractor


The Space

The Space

Features and services

Special services

Audiovisual/multimedia areas, Cafe/refreshment areas, Group study spaces, Exhibition/display areas, Meeting rooms, Hosting of other agencies, Services to particular groups, Provision of special materials, Public address system, Retail outlets, Specialist subject collections 

External features

  • 8 kilometres of terracotta baguettes fitted to the exterior of the building by hand and reflecting the colours of the Victorian Founder’s building
  • External second-floor study terrace allowing students to work outdoors but within Library curtilage
  • Views across the landscape, ranging from the Founder’s Building to central London
  • Founder’s Square: an external landscaped space between the Grade 1 listed Founder’s Building and the Davison Building. Called Founder’s Square, this space has been transformed from an untidy car parking area into an extensive and inviting space linking the old and the new and providing a focal point for students, staff and visitors to meet, network and relax

Internal features

  • Extensive and striking use of glass throughout the building giving lots of natural light and feeling of space and giving amazing views to the Victorian Founder’s Building and woodland
  • Group study rooms projecting beyond line of building giving sense of stepping into the woodland outside
  • Feature wing lining up with the centre of the Victorian Founder’s Building opposite
  • Extensive timber finishes
  • Oak-panelled, oak-desked study area with open shelving  around the walls and to the sides
  • Mezzanine level from which views are breath-taking
  • Feature lighting
  • Bridges connecting each side of the atrium
  • Acoustic treatment across walls, ceiling, floors

Energy efficiency

  • BREEAM Excellent
  • High levels of daylight penetration and LED (light-emitting diode) lighting
  • High efficiency building fabric
  • Photovoltaic solar panels
  • Biodiverse brown roof

Accessibility provision

  • Signage has been minimised and can be described  as zoning by design
  • Simple wording designates areas
  • Assistive technology suite: a secluded area for students needing to access assistive software such as text-to-speech software and other assistive study tools

Interior designer


Furniture suppliers

Ecospace: shelving, including rolling stacks to maximise study seats and accommodate general collection on upper floors, and archival storage including oversize shelving, map chests and racking for framed items

Broadstock; Orange Box: furniture

Link 51: art store shelving

Services and facilities suppliers

Atrium: lighting

Hoare Lea: acoustics

Access gates: Telepen

RFID gates: Bibliotheca

Self-service kiosks, RFID readers and aerials: Bibliotheca

Book sortation: Bibliotheca FlexAMH

Library management system: Ex Libris Alma

Art/archives system: KE EMu cataloguing software and IMu online catalogue

Room booking system: Resource Booker by Scientia

Enquiry management system: BMC (Footprints)

Self-service laptop cabinets: D-Tech

IT provision

WiFi, RFID, Charging points, Device lending. 280 desktop terminals. 

Seats/study places