Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College

The new extension and refurbishment of Emmanuel College Library is a project of considerable subtlety and complexity, with timber used as structure, cladding and internal joinery.

Emmanuel College Library by Kilburn Nightingale
Emmanuel College Library by Kilburn Nightingale
Emmanuel College Library by Kilburn Nightingale
Emmanuel College Library by Kilburn Nightingale

The new extension and refurbishment of Emmanuel College Library is a project of considerable subtlety and complexity, with timber used as structure, cladding and internal joinery. It improves access to all parts of the library, provides additional reader spaces, including individual reading carrels, book storage space and new offices. Shading, insulation and low-energy systems of environmental control have been introduced to create a comfortable reading environment and provide the proper conditions for the conservation of books and archives.

The College, founded in 1584, inhabits buildings dating from more than four centuries, including the Wren chapel (1674) and the Queen’s Building by Michael Hopkins (1995). The library supports a community of scholars – 80 fellows, 450 undergraduates and 150 graduate students – and has a complex history. In 1931 it was installed in the two-storey former lecture room building designed by Leonard Stokes in 1909 in what Pevsner describes as ‘Arts-and-Crafts Gothic’, a pleasant red brick and stone building overlooking the lawns and pond at the southern end of the college. This was converted and extended, almost seamlessly, by Stokes’ younger partner, George Drysdale.

In the 1970s the library began to outgrow the Stokes building and the Manchester practice of Cruickshank & Seward added a four-storey utilitarian brick and concrete extension, discreetly tucked away at the south-west corner. By the 2000s, the library had become a large and over-complex institution and in 2005 a competition was held to refurbish and extend it, won by Kilburn Nightingale Architects. The brief stipulated that the architect should work with the existing library building and extensions.

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