York Archives
Design concept showing bronze cladding and the gold linking element.

The proposed development is part of the ‘York Explore’ central library and historic Mint Yard complex.

The proposal aims to deliver an accessible and inspirational archive experience for a wide range of visitors as a ‘Gateway to History’, including a new purpose-built PD5454-compliant repository for the valuable archives of York, recognised as second only to London in national importance. The design aims to create a new, welcoming and inspiring reading and learning environment within the York Explore building, communicating the riches of the archive collection and inviting visitors to explore their own and other people’s histories, as well as creating a new secure and safe storage facility for York’s archive treasures.
Design development to RIBA Stage D was enabled through the award of a development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded to City of York Council in 2011. A Round 2 funding application for the remaining design and construction costs has now been submitted to the HLF Yorkshire & Humber Regional Committee.

A modern service in a historical context

The design works with key features of the listed 1930s Carnegie library building, in particular the ‘oculus’ visually linking the library on the ground floor to the first floor reading rooms and archives. The new archive repository is situated as a new storey on top of an existing single storey wing of the library; with full consultation with English Heritage, the design is a modern insertion, made of a lightweight structural plywood product, highly insulated and clad in textured steel, with an angled gold copper linking element designed as interlocking boxes.

Challenges included ensuring the structure of the existing building was robust enough for the new addition, considering the additional point load of the new storage facility, which has been designed to sit on a ‘ring beam’; structural exploration included brick testing and 3D modelling to test the feasibility of the design.
The interior design will involve careful restoration and reuse of key features, including original furniture. A new layout for circulation space, and the division of space into welcome and information, quiet study, family history and secure archive reading room have made the facility usable and accessible to a wide range of users.
Bisset Adams project leader Adam Strudwick said; "It has been a fantastic challenge to attempt to incorporate a modern, flexible and efficient Archive Service into this beautiful old building. We think the design achieves this with a mixture of subtle internal alterations, the use of quality materials and a bold intervention that will complement and contrast with its historical context.”