Accessibility and a rigorous approach to sustainability set the tone for this grade II listed library extension

London-based architecture practice Studio Weave has extended the grade II-listed Lea Bridge Library in Leyton, east London.

Adding a cafe and adaptable community space with improved connection to the library’s gardens, the project has resulted in a revived civic heart for the Borough of Waltham Forest.

As the neighbourhood undergoes a period of regeneration, Studio Weave explored the changing role of a library in modern infrastructure conceiving a new wing that offers places to work, learn, socialise, and gather.

The 250sq m wing sits to the rear of the Edwardian red brick library and occupies the western boundary of the site, designed to lightly touch the existing heritage building and its green space, Friendship Gardens.

The design team used the existing western garden wall as a structural spine, anchoring the structure and bulk of the building to one side, ensuring a seamless, open connection to the gardens.

Cantilevered beams of laminated veneer lumber support a length of overhead glazing and floating ceiling of timber battens, while floor to ceiling glazing along the east elevation invites the outdoors in.

The project has resulted in a revived civic heart for the Borough of Waltham Forest

Studio Weave designed the library extension to sit harmoniously in between existing mature trees, resulting in a rectangular floor plan punctuated by a semi-circular glass cut out.

A pivoting timber door hangs flush with wall joinery and swings across to create a flexible private events space, offering a valuable community asset while also future proofing a further revenue stream for the library.

A long colonnade stretches the length of the extension, featuring a graded natural stone walkway to ensure level access to the rear event space.

A facade of zig-zagging red precast concrete panels and columns nod to the tone of the brick used in the existing library and conceal drainage which captures and redirects water down to the tree roots below the building.

Accessibility was central to the success of the project, with two new access points drawing visitors in through the gardens at the side and rear of the site.

The main entrance and foyer on Lea Bridge Road has been refurbished to include wash facilities, buggy parking and an upstairs staff room.

Studio Weave designed the library extension to sit harmoniously in between existing mature trees

The architects’ rigorous approach to sustainability is felt throughout the building. The open plan space benefits from a considered passive cooling strategy supported by mechanical heat recovery ventilation (MVHR).

The ceiling is carefully positioned to protect the exposed aggregate floor from direct sunlight and the continuous glass wall opens at intervals to allow for natural cross ventilation.

All internal joinery and furniture timber was salvaged from trees felled across the publicly owned streets and parks in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the pavilion.

Studio Weave worked closely with local furniture maker Sebastian Cox, designing an in-built banquette with fluted timber shelving that stretches along the pavilion. Cox also designed custom tables, chairs and sofas for the new space, all crafted from 25 cubic metres of waste timber.

The project is a critical community element of the Borough of Waltham Forest’s cultural regeneration, supported by £411,000 from the Greater London Authority’s Good Growth Fund. Studio Weave is now working on the second phase of the library’s development, re-landscaping the garden and adding in play facilities to be delivered in 2023.

Project details

Architect Studio Weave
Client London Borough of Waltham Forest
Structural engineer Timberwright
M&E consultant NPS London
Quantity surveyor NPS London
Landscape consultant Studio Weave
Furniture & carpentry Sebastian Cox