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a life in architecture - antonia byatt

Normally, Antonia Byatt, daughter of novelist A S Byatt, says she would choose a building that was 'less brash' than Will Alsop's Peckham Library - something more discreet, like the new home of the Women's Library in London's East End, of which she is director.

But she lives in Peckham and finds herself delighted by the boldness of her new local library.

Besides, there are interesting parallels between the two buildings: both are new community resources in deprived areas of London currently undergoing regeneration. 'South London is fairly dowdy and to have something in the middle of Peckham that shouts at you and has library in huge letters over it is great.' She enjoys the European feel of the courtyard/square, with its leisure centre and cafe.

Inside, the library is 'a bustling centre'where people can find out about jobs and surf the net as well as hunting for books. And the architecture is uplifting: 'You get a sense of spaciousness and light in the big reading room. I think you need that.You are going in to expand your horizons, aren't you?

But there are also little pods where you can bury yourself and study privately. That's the other delight of reading - losing all sense of the outside world.'

Whatever happens in the electronic future, Byatt has no doubt that 'there will always be a role for books and public libraries where people gather to find things out together.'

The Women's Library is at Old Castle Street, London EC1

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