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18/01/2011
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British Library Centre for Conservation

London

Background

The British Library Centre for Conservation was built to:

  • provide world class facilities for the conservation of the British Library's extensive collection
  • enable high quality sound recording to develop the nation's sounds archive
  • house both the conservation and sound archiving departments at the St Pancras site
  • enable the safe and easy transfer of collection items between the British Library and the conservation centre
  • educate and inform the public about conservation techniques and the Library's extensive sound archive.

Exterior of the centre

The main entrance to the centre is located through the existing Library building on the first floor across an extended terrace that leads into a public exhibition space. The red brick unifies the old and new so that the exterior form reads as part of the original building rather than as a disconnected extension.

Interior of the centre

The centre has a distinct internal identity as the design is led by the unique functional requirements of the building.

The top floor contains the central open plan conservation studio , dominated by the north facing dormer windows supplying the natural light needed for book conservation. Purpose-built rooms allow messier processes such as book binding and wet paper treatments to be isolated. This stops them interfering with the sensitive work done in the main studio.

The upper ground floor contains meeting rooms, workshops, an examination room, low oxygen storage and strong rooms for outgoing loans from the collection. Closed corridors and stairwells help to separate different functional areas.  These circulation spaces do not feel enclosed or dark due to the generous provision of internal and external windows.

The lower ground floor contains the sound archive, sound studios, a workshop and administrative offices. To allow for full acoustic control the sound archive is isolated from the rest of the building in its own steel frame, This does not touch the main structure and reduces reverberations. The whole building sits on rubber pads to remove the sound of underground trains below.

The challenge for the Design Quality Indicator

The challenge was to integrate the conservation and audio archive into one building. Both occupants required highly specialist environments which had to integrate sensitive yet robust environmental controls.

The Design Quality Indicator (DQI) was used to set shared goals and ensure that end user needs were met throughout the design process.