The David Wilson Library

University of Leicester

Project Value:

£25 million

Client:

Completion:

2008

Key Points

50% naturally ventilated

Super-insulated and extreme level air-tightness

3 photovoltaic systems

Multi-award-winning

Attract and retain the best

The University of Leicester wanted to modernise and extend the existing main campus library to ensure it remained competitive with other top universities, attracting and retaining the best staff and students. Our solution was to design a new library that recycled and extended the existing library structure within a new sustainable envelope: full of natural light and fresh air.

The new library is now more than just a library and it contains 1,500 reader places of all types (including a dedicated Postgraduate Area, IT training and group study rooms), a student development zone incorporating the Student Learning Centre, Careers Service, bookshop, café, 500 seat lecture theatre, seminar rooms, Accessibility Centre, Special Collections Archive, and 38 kilometres of shelving allowing 20 years growth in the printed collections.

An essential resource base

The existing concrete structure was altered and extended to create four atria spaces linked by an internal multi-level street providing a coherent plan generator for students to navigate. Noise break-out to study spaces is controlled by placing book stacks and enclosed study rooms between circulation and readers. This simple linear arrangement was crossed by a ‘servant spine’ providing support uses at the heart of the building. The spine was located at the junction between new and old to assist with phasing. The library is an essential resource base for students and had to be kept operational throughout construction. The proposed plan had to respond to this from day one and was another critical aspect to the delivery of the project with minimal disruption.

Sustainable, multi-functional comfort

hrough discussion with the University we were able to extend the frontage line of the library out into the existing library square. A new fully glazed solar-buffer wall provides a completely new image for the library as a transparent box of learning, with the new glass frontage carefully aligned with the vertical face of the workshop element of the listed Stirling & Gowan Engineering Building beyond. To support this new image and to revitalise the social use of the library, a café and bookshop were provided on either side of the street facing out onto the library square.

Opened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the University, it is an inspirational place of learning, a working environment to be proud of and a library that is sustainable, multi-functional and has concern for the comfort of the user as well as the books.