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University of Bristol Library

Bristol/ UK

Size/ 14,355 m²
Competition/ 2017, 1st prize in an international competition
Status/ Planning process
Client/ University of Bristol
Principal Collaborating Architect and Lead Consultant/ Hawkins\Brown
Project Management/ Mace Limited
Engineer/ BuroHappold Engineering
Transport Consultants/ Arup
Landscape Architect/ Grant Associates
Other collaborators/ Cost Management: Faithful + Gould/ Planning Consultants: CSJ Planning/ BREEAM Consultant: Sustainable Construction Services

The University of Bristol’s landmark new library will transform the heart of its Clifton campus and provide an architecturally significant new building for the city. The library will accommodate learning and research space with capacity for 2,000 new study seats, 420,000 books, and 70,000 journals. The library forms a key part of the university’s vision and strategy for transforming the Clifton campus, which includes providing new and enhanced facilities, improvements to public spaces, and creating a welcoming heart to the university for students, staff, and the community at large.

The new university library will be built on the site of The Hawthorns, located at the corner of Woodland Road and Elton Road.

The landscape, public space, and building will create a single, strong identity, reinforcing the legibility of the site and providing a welcoming pedestrian-friendly arrival sequence.

The new university library provides a bridge between the scale of neighbouring Victorian villas and the form of Senate House. The design concept has taken the module of the villas and stacked, twisted, and developed the shape and scale to create a building that matches Senate House in height and status. The resulting interplay of spaces sets up a dialogue between the new university library and the city.

The library’s design followed three overarching design principles: civic and publicly accessible spaces that invite the city inside, contextually relevant architecture that is closely integrated with its surroundings, and designing a landmark with significant historical, architectural, and cultural meaning.

The library features a stepped design to integrate with the surrounding buildings. It will meet high sustainability standards with a focus on natural light, a high level of energy efficiency, and low environmental impact.

The plans also include a new civic square aimed at making the surrounding area safer, more attractive, and accessible to all. The design embodies the values of the Campus Heart programme by creating more space, connections, and involvement for staff, students, and the public.

The ground floor will be fully open to the public and is designed to be accessible to all. The new university library will welcome students, staff, and Bristol’s communities by opening up the university’s world-class cultural collections. This includes the nationally renowned Theatre Collection alongside ground floor exhibition galleries and café.

Key considerations in the design process were both how the building should relate to, and the impact the building would have on the historic context. This is both in its immediate vicinity of conservation areas and its identity within the city’s skyline as part of a key group of prominent civic and university buildings. The façade design is an essential element in achieving a low energy building and a comfortable internal environment that promotes health and well-being. The material palette is clean and simple whilst also reflecting the weight and importance of this building and its prominent location. Light-coloured limestone is proposed as the main cladding material, as found on many Bristol buildings as well as key civic buildings throughout the UK.

The University of Bristol has a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 and the new library will complement this. A BREEAM (Building Research Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘Excellent’ is being targeted. The building will be thermally efficient to reduce heating and cooling requirements. Material selections have considered embodied energy. Our vision is to create a world-class library, at the heart of the campus, that reflects the university and the city’s proud tradition of academic excellence with an innovative, forward-thinking spirit.

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