Peckham Library and Media Centre is one of the most successful libraries to be built in recent years, not least because it turns on its head the traditional notion of what a library building is or should be and how it should serve the local community. It is also one of the first buildings in the UK to make extensive use of the Vanceva Design laminated glass system. The building's bold, colourful, eye-catching design - which injects much-needed vibrancy and fun into a particularly unremarkable suburb of south London - is typical of the iconoclastic design approach emanating from the office of Alsop Architects.
Part of the major urban regeneration of the area, the bold, streetwise design philosophy of the building played a large part in helping the practice win the £5 million project. Commissioned by Southwark's Education and Leisure Services, Alsop Architects was asked to 'create a building of architectural merit that would bring prestige to the borough and a welcome psychological boost to the area'. Clearly, the architect thought deeply about the potential of coloured laminated glass.
The completed building has surpassed all expectations. It won the prestigious Stirling Prize for Building of the Year in 2000, when judges lauded the scheme as 'one delight after another' and called it 'an extraordinary and innovative design'.Marco Goldschmied, then president of the RIBA, described Peckham Library as 'innovative and exciting' and 'a building to make you smile: more architecture should do that'.
Character forming The building's character derives as much from its unusual form - an upturned Lshape on stilts - as from the use of bold colour to enliven the elevations. In this respect, Solutia's Vanceva Design laminated glass interlayers, used as external cladding, play a significant part in making the fivestorey, 2,300m 2building a dramatic insertion in the local urban environment.
The north side of the building is glazed with various-sized clear and coloured laminated glass panels in yellow, orange, green and red. These contrast with the east and west elevations which are clad in more subdued pre-patinated copper and accentuated by green and blue glazing. Inside, the light and airy feeling is enhanced by the perimeter skylight and the careful arrangement of window openings.
Flexible uses Clearly, the Vanceva Design laminated glass interlayers used throughout the building play an important role in creating the overall ambience . 'It has been very exciting being involved in the Peckham Library project, ' says Philip Oesau of Solutia. 'Ten years ago it would not have been possible to produce a building using glass in this way but, due to advances in technology, the architects were able to create a building spectacular in design through the application of coloured laminated glass. I think we will be seeing more adventurous and flexible uses of multi-variable coloured glass in the future.'
As well as fulfilling the architect's aesthetic intentions, the laminated glass made with Solutia's Vanceva Design interlayer system give the library enhanced safety and security, as well as sound and solar control.
Architect: Alsop Architects, UK Laminator: Plyglass Project completed:2000