Blackpool Central Library

Bold architectural interventions, including new entrances and ‘floating’ walkways, have transformed the way the Carnegie building can be used, with listed building consent achieved within eight weeks. The designs reflect Blackpool’s unique heritage of theatricality, holiday-making and imagination: a ‘transport of delight’. Bisset Adams were further commissioned to extend the external landscaping scheme to incorporate the Grundy Art Gallery, part of the original scheme in 1911.

Investing in libraries

The opening of Blackpool Central Library has proven timely, occurring amidst a backdrop of library closures throughout the country. The Council has shown that, ‘We’ve only been open a few weeks, but visitor numbers area already up.'

Partially funded by the Big Lottery, the project involved extensive consultation and design workshops with both staff and local communities to redesign a key cultural venue in the town, with library, local history, arts and learning services.

A key member of the team from the tender stage was project Artist Nick Robertson, who in consultation with community and staff members created a magnificent set of eight stained glass windows reflecting key themes such as Illumination, Aspiration and Curiosity, to complement the original stained glass of the building. These have been welcomed as an important cultural legacy for the next one hundred years.

A more accessible space

Increasing accessibility and usage was a key theme, and the design involved creating a new entrance within the listed façade, opening onto a landscaped area adjacent to the street, allowing a new library café and informal lounge to spill out onto the terrace.

The main entrance was made more accessible with a new ramp achieved by removing an existing lift and relocating it to a new extension to the rear. The original competition drawings of 1911 showed an area designated for ‘possible future extension’ completing the symmetry of the building, and this was used for the new extension which houses lift core, toilets and staff workspace.

New external glazed walkways at first floor level to the rear created a simple and direct circulation system for the building, restoring the integrity of the grand reading and local history rooms to the first floor, which previously doubled as corridors. The library’s Critchelow Collection of entertainment posters formed the basis of the colour palette and graphics throughout the library.

The new concept generated flexible spaces that can be used for presentations, educational groups, study, events, historical research and group learning.

The library achieves both a restoration of a magnificent building, brought to life with modern, flexible interior spaces, lighting, and bespoke furniture as an inspiring and contemporary library, arts and learning centre. A representative of the Big Lottery was quoted by the Council Leader as saying, ‘This is the best example of a refurbished Carnegie library I’ve ever seen.'