Wright & Wright Architects has unveiled its designs for a new library at Lambeth Palace to house one of the world’s most important religious collections
The Church Commissioners for England selected the practice for the high-profile job last December, ahead of big names including Zaha Hadid Architects (see AJ 08.12.15).
The new library in the grounds of the Grade I-listed landmark – the historic London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury – will house the second-largest religious collection in Europe after the Vatican’s, with records stretching back to the ninth century.
The contemporary brick building with its eight-storey tower will provide ‘state-of-the-art’ archive facilities for the conservation and storage of the unique collection of historic manuscripts and books.
The present Lambeth Palace Library holds about 200,000 printed books, 30,000 of which date from before 1700; more than 5,000 manuscripts, 600 of which are medieval; and the records of past Archbishops of Canterbury.
‘We are delighted to be working on this at the peak of our careers’
Clare Wright, partner at Wright & Wright Architects, said: ‘The commission to design a building of such resonance, emblematic of the historic relationship between church and state, and sited in the garden of Lambeth Palace, is a dream come true. We are deeply honoured and delighted to be working on this at the peak of our careers.’
The designs for the new building will go on public display from Thursday 8 September at an exhibition in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace.
Following the public consultation, a planning application for the library is expected to be submitted to Lambeth Council in early 2017.
The architect’s view
’The elegant contemporary brick building takes its design cues from the gate tower of the neighbouring Tudor Lambeth Palace buildings and emerges seamlessly from the red brick perimeter wall of the Palace gardens.
’The single storey building rises to a well-proportioned eight-storey tower, the form acknowledging the historically defensive nature of buildings which create an entrance to the otherwise secure Palace gardens.
’The simple tower form enables the reduction of the building footprint to the minimum necessary for the operation of the library, and, for the first time in recent history, elevates the entire collection above the flood plain, guaranteeing its safety from any future flood risk.
’This part of the building is cocooned in sealed masonry to protect the collection from the elements and pollution through passive means. Thus the past is preserved but not at the expense of the future.
’The simple glazed and bronze entrance, which incorporates Palladian principles of design, allows passers-by views of the Palace gardens beyond as well as embodying the aspiration for the building to deliver a new era of accessibility to the library collection.
’Inside the building, public spaces and reading rooms are flooded with natural light providing tranquil views across the enlarged pond to the wooded and naturalised gardens beyond. The building also creates a new physical barrier between the busy Lambeth Road and the gardens, significantly reducing noise and air pollution.
’At the top of the library tower, a multi-functional viewing space is created, allowing direct views across the river Thames to the Palace of Westminster, reinforcing the historic connection between church and state.’
Lambeth palace library site plan with key