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Wright & Wright’s Lambeth Palace Library completes: first shots

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New photographs have been released of Wright & Wright’s completed Lambeth Palace Library which is due to open in early 2021

The £23.5 million national library and archive for the Church of England at Lambeth Palace is located on the south bank of the River Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster.

Wright & Wright were originally selected for the high-profile building by the Church Commissioners for England in December 2015, ahead of big names including Zaha Hadid Architects (see AJ 08.12.15).

Sited in the garden of the Grade I-listed Palace, the 5,400 m² building will house archives, which after the Vatican consist of the most important collection of religious books, manuscripts and archives in Europe, together with the historic collections of Lambeth Palace Library – founded in 1610 and one of the earliest public libraries in the UK. 

Designed to increase public accessibility to the library, the new red brick building, constructed by Knight Harwood, takes the form of an ‘occupied wall’ to Lambeth Palace Road, with four and five-storey wings, rising to a nine-storey central tower, crowned by a viewing platform, further animating the Palace’s skyline to the river and screening its garden from traffic noise and pollution.

Internally the key design move has been to elevate the historic collection – which dates from 1610 – against the potential risk of flooding. Thus the plan is organised around a double-height entrance hall containing reception and exhibition areas and a ground floor public reading room, with staff offices for up to 30 library staff on the ground and first floors, all overlooking the garden. An Upper Room above this, designed for seminars and functions, sits centrally between the two wings of four- and five-storey archives. A specialist observation studio accommodating up to eight full-time conservators, seminar and teaching rooms are also incorporated in the design.

The library layout is designed to minimise the building’s footprint on the grounds and enhance the local ecology of the gardens, accommodating a new and enlarged pond and wetland glade, designed with landscape architect Dan Pearson Studio.

The project has been awarded a BREEAM Excellent rating.

Architect’s view

It has been a fantastic honour to work on this building, whose purpose resonates so powerfully with its historic site. We are indebted to clients Declan Kelly and Giles Mandelbrote for their input and guidance, as well as to all in the team. It has truly been an act of collaboration.

Clare Wright, partner, Wright & Wright Architects 

Client’s view

We are really proud of what the team have achieved in creating a building and an environment that will not only protect and preserve our magnificent collections for the future but allow us to make them more accessible than ever before so that they can be explored and enjoyed by all.

Declan Kelly, director of libraries and archives, Lambeth Palace Library

Contractor’s view

It has been a pleasure to be involved in this scheme and the creation of a very special building. The quality of the design and workmanship ensures that the building interacts appropriately with both the tranquil garden setting within the Palace grounds and the prominent positioning on Lambeth Palace Road.

Oliver Driscoll, director, Knight Harwood 

Project data

Start on site April 2018
Practical completion July 2020
Expected opening Spring 2021
Gross internal floor area 5,400m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 6,310m²
Form of contract or procurement route 2 Stage Traditional Contract
Construction cost £23.5 million
Architect Wright & Wright Architects
Client The Church Commissioners for England
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E engineer Max Fordham
Façade engineer Thornton Tomasetti
QS Fanshawe
Landscape consutant Dan Pearson Studio
Acoustics & BREEAM consultant Max Fordham
Fire safety consultant Menzies Partners
Main contractor Knight Harwood
Project manager Stuart A Johnson Consulting
CDM consultant Stroma
Planning consultant DP9

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I've gandered around this scheme for a while now, it continues to grow on me and is a wonderful scheme . My only issue is that the photos don't do justice to the way the tower & its crown sit so well within its context when viewed from the opposite bank which is a delightful addition to the city scape in this sensitive part of central London.

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