UK Library Design Moves Away From Tradition

Sir Duncan Rice Library

Library design is fast becoming a popular interior design sector around the world. The importance of libraries as community spaces for both education and communication has not been lost on designers, who are taking strides to revolutionize the modern design of these spaces.

Rather than simply rehashing the stark, institutional library motif, the 21st century library places a focus on collaborative learning, features abundant natural light, inverts institutional design and is founded on a strong basis of environmental responsibility.

The new Sir Duncan Rice Library at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, which was recently officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, moves completely away from the traditionalist buildings of the past, demonstrating an incredibly modern aesthetic and ideology.

The 15,500 square metre library, designed by architectural firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen, will replace the university’s previous library, which was built in 1965.

“The building is a bold and affirmative statement from the University,” said University of Aberdeen librarian and director of special collections and museums Chris Banks. “It says ‘We mean business’ and it also says ‘You are welcome here.’”

The building’s façade consists of a mass of insulated high-performance panels while the interiors are a testament to topology, fluidity and light.

From the central atrium, aptly dubbed the ‘dynamic vortex’, visitors – of which there have been more than 700,000 over the last 12 months – can see through the centre of the entire building, giving a sense of extreme space without being overwhelming to the point where patrons feel disconnected.

Sir Duncan Rice Library

“I’m also delighted that the building has attracted so many more students to use the library and the way in which it provides for both social and formal meeting spaces,” Banks said. “It has, for the first time, allowed us to truly showcase our very significant special collections.”

The designers set out to achieve BREEAM certification for the building, a goal they achieved through the implementation of several key sustainable features.

According to architect Morten Schmidt, the building stands as a modern icon for the university and area, offering all of the positive elements that are now commonplace with modern library design.

Sir Duncan Rice Library

“The University of Aberdeen New Library functions as a meeting place and a cultural centre for the students of the University as well as the Aberdeen community,” he said. “The façade of the building shimmers during the day and glows softly at night, creating a luminous landmark – a beacon – for the city of Aberdeen.”

The importance of library design is not being lost on architects, with the buildings becoming now more than ever aesthetically pleasing modern community icons.

By Emily D’Alterio
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