Alsop and Störmer
- Original design
- Alsop and Störmer , 2000
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
The original Peckham Library was bombed in WWII and replaced by a Nissan hut. The temporary library was inadequate to meet the needs of the community and the high demand for modern services.
The new library was part of a £265 million, seven year Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) programme for Peckham, which ran from 1994 to 2001. This comprised new low-rise housing and key community facilities on the newly landscaped square, including the library, Pulse healthy living centre and the Peckham Arch.
The Library is one of three strategic libraries in Southwark (the others are at Dulwich and Canada Water) and covers the centre of the borough, having replaced two small local libraries.
The design brief to the architects Alsop and Störmer required the library to be light, to have flexible use which could be adapted as library needs changed, to be safe and welcoming to a diverse community and to be energy efficient.
The green copper clad high-rise library features internal learning ‘pods’ and a two-storey cantilever 12 metres above ground level, supported on leaning steel columns with concrete infill and a bifurcated steel truss.
External claddings were chosen for durability and for their expressive textures and colours; the pre-patinated green copper and steel mesh contrast with the coloured glass used on the north facade. The library itself is at fourth floor level, the short arm of an inverted ‘L’, with offices, meeting rooms and other ancillary facilities on the lower floors (the ‘L’ shape of building is due to Peckham Square being situated where there used to be an electric substation which could not be built over). The striking design provides a contrast with the traditional idea of libraries as staid Victorian buildings ("as unlike a public building as the Taj Mahal is from your local post office", according to Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian) and won the 2000 Stirling Prize.
The energy efficient design incorporates natural ventilation (no air conditioning) but with automatic mechanical assistance to the ventilation in the pods.
Completion of the library took five years from submission of bid to opening, construction taking 21 months at a cost of £5 million; the total cost including fees, fitting out, IT and new stock was £6.75 million, with £1.25 million contributed from SRB funding. It was opened to the public on 8 March 2000 and officially opened by Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 15 May 2000. The new library immediately attracted a high number of users.
Shared usage was designed to attract residents to joined-up services – One Stop Shop, Learning Centre and Library on one site.
MySouthwark service point (formerly One Stop Shop): provides information on Council and non-council services, such as health, benefits and housing issues. Note the timber-covered curving pod and counter. The room maximises light. The open-tulip design of the pod is organic, working well with the angular room space. It is used as an office above and a private meeting space below.
This was occupied by the Learning Centre and Southwark Education, Training and Advice for Adults (SETAA), but is currently vacant (2018).
The mini pods are timber clad. The acoustics were designed to circulate sound within and not beyond the consultation pods, ensuring privacy. The second floor also houses the building’s servers and other IT.
Third Floor (staff floor, closed access)
The non-public areas in the building have limited space available for backroom stock, 30 staff working in the building at busy times and for management space. This floor also houses electrical cables. The wire mesh against the glass at the front of the building is for security and is also a design feature exploring use of different textures.
Central pod – used for quiet study (previously the Afro-Caribbean section).
Meeting pod – this is loaned out to community groups and commercial organisations including the NHS, emerging authors’ book launch, and a chess club.
Children’s pod – used for Under 5s and other events. There is a stage, wet and dry play areas and a double floor so that ICT can be put anywhere (therefore flexible usage).
Children’s library: the coloured glass adds to the atmosphere and feel for children.
The pod on the fifth floor has an interesting interior design and acoustics. Unfortunately the views of St Paul’s, Tate Modern, the London Eye and the City have now been obstructed by the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts building, due to open in Sept 2018.