|This visit was part of RIBA East Midlands Great British Buildings Talks and Tours 2017.
The building is composed of two main parts. The existing library by Basil Spence, with its low ceiling heights which has been thoroughly renovated and the new curved extension which contains new open reading and study areas. The number of individual and group learning spaces within the library has been doubled and combined with a new Social Hub catering area at the ground floor. Designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent, the design allowed the Library to remain in use through the construction process.
The speaker from Hopkins Architects was Mike Taylor, Senior Partner, who designed the building and was involved throughout the life of the project. He began by explaining how the original library needed upgrading to cope with the demands of information technology, to improve it’s energy rating and to accommodate more students. Basil Spence had originally planned for a later extension, but it was decided that his idea for rectangular repeat of the existing building could be improved upon to make better use of the site. Mike described the changes in the ways libraries are used nowadays. Students want to be able to learn in a more social environment These factors all helped to generate the form of the building we see today.
The new extension has more generous ceiling heights than the older part of the building. A large atrium provides a link between the new and the old and creates many tantalising glimpses between the various spaces. This gives a feeling of belonging to a community, removing the isolation that can be caused by solid walls. A new exterior cladding system gives visual coherence to the two parts whilst enabling a higher level of insulation to the old building.
The footprint of the extension resembles four petals around which wind long desks on each floor with views to outdoors. Students, it seems, like to work with a view and large numbers of them can be accommodated by this layout. The lobed perimeter also preserves more generous spaces between the extension and the buildings surrounding it than would have been possible with a rectilinear footprint. Similar curves embrace the atrium and these too are furnished with sinuous lines of desking.
The ground floor library café is surrounded by work spaces in various configurations. This arrangement continues on the upper floors where additional smaller spaces have been furnished for communal use.
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