Team with Schmidt Hammer Lassen beat starry shortlist
Hawkins Brown and Schmidt Hammer Lassen have won planning for a new library for Bristol University more than a year after submitting the plans to the city council.
The new university library (NUL) will occupy a hilltop site at the heart of the main campus, at the corner of Elton Road and Woodland Road.
It will contain around 2,000 new study seats and space for 420,000 books and 70,000 journals.
The two practices, working with Buro Happold, were appointed in 2017 after beating AHMM, Wilkinson Eyre, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Atkins and Snohetta in an international competition.
Adam Cossey, partner at Hawkins Brown, said the library would “open up new ways for the university to engage with the city and its communities” by offering social, cultural and academic activities.
The surrounding street layout and public realm will also be redesigned to establish the building as a gateway to the university precinct, said Kasper Frandsen, partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen.
This will include better pedestrian and cycle routes, a civic square between the NUL and refurbished Senate House and better connections with Royal Fort Gardens.
The publicly accessible ground floor will host events and exhibitions and contain a café while the upper floors will be open to staff and students for study and research.
The building will have a stepped form rising from three to seven storeys to negotiate a change in scale from surrounding streets of Victorian villas to the institutional campus buildings such as Senate House.
The building will be clad with natural limestone, with a vertical emphasis that pairs with vertical fins over the windows which the architects said was a nod to Bristol’s many buildings in the perpendicular gothic style.
Large-scale picture windows arranged in a regular rhythm across the façade will expand and contract to reveal the internal activity as well as views across the surrounding townscape.
Deputy vice-chancellor and provost Professor Judith Squires said: “It will be a new cultural destination for the city of Bristol, with a museum-style café, exhibition galleries, reading rooms to explore archival and museum collections, and programmed event spaces.
“The new university library will sit in a new city square, providing a welcoming and inspiring public realm for the whole city.
“We look forward to delivering this new heart to our university campus and currently anticipate that the new library will open in 2026.”
The library is being designed to achieve Breeam Excellent.