Complaints about Foster and Partners' £30 million library at the London School of Economics have dogged the building since it opened 18 months ago, the AJ has learnt.
Students have complained to their union that the acoustics 'are abysmal', that the project is too small and that the signature staircase (pictured) is 'highly uncomfortable to use'.
A spokesman for the LSE's student union told the AJ that the organisation had been 'inundated' with such criticisms. 'We have been told that even a whisper can be heard anywhere and that the reading areas are far too noisy, ' he said.
The problems follow earlier complaints about acoustics in a Foster and Partners' building, after the secretary of the Cambridge Law Faculty said in 1999 that the building's library was affected by outside noise pollution (AJ 25.2.99).
The environmental conditions at the LSE library have also come in for condemnation from students. 'There seems to be no control over the temperature in the building, ' the union spokesman said. 'The heating and the air conditioning seem completely out of kilter.'
And he added there were also problems with the scale of the design. 'Since it opened and the number of books available increased, the library has been overcrowded. It is very difficult to find the area of the library you are after. The staircase is a nightmare to use, ' he complained. 'The students hate walking up and down it, you would need one leg shorter than the other to use it with comfort.'
The LSE's head of estates, Chris Kudlisky, admitted that things have not run as smoothly as he would have liked. 'There have been problems with the commissioning of the environmental controls. We have also had difficulties getting the contractors back to fix the problems, ' he said.
But he dismissed claims the building had proved unpopular, insisting it was simply a victim of its own success. 'Most of the student population is wildly keen on the building. It has proved an attraction - a very good way of encouraging students to come to the school, ' Kudlisky added.
Foster and Partners said that, as far as the practice was aware, the university was delighted with the project.