University of Reading Library Refurbishment, Phase 3

Phase Three of University of Reading’s £40m library refurbishment is currently on site; an ambitious solution that will meet the University’s vision to become a thriving, global institution.

A three-phase makeover

Back in 2012, the University of Reading’s six-storey library faced an uncertain future. Built in the 60’s, it was rated by the University as ‘functionally unsuitable’. Its façade was dated and its main entrance was hard to access. Similarly, its internal layout (deep plan, clutter of structural columns, low floor-to-ceiling heights) meant that it no longer lived up to students’ needs.

However, starting afresh would be too disruptive to the ordinary operation of the University. Instead, we experimented with a partial refit of storeys two to five. That was Phase One. When that proved successful, we carried out Phase Two: minor interventions to improve the toilet provision.

The brief

The University’s brief focused on improving the functionality, circulation, access, sustainability and appearance of the library in the context of their campus redevelopment masterplan and estate strategy.

Acknowledging the library’s prominence in the heart of a precious parkland campus, it was important to understand pedestrian flows to determine the location of the front entrance. Our analysis considered various options, but retaining the existing entrance in the western façade made the most sense as it had potential to be greatly improved.

Intuitively legible

Aligned on the building’s east-west axis, the new design will open the library up to the rest of the campus. Re-establishing this dominant axis controls the zoning of uses across the floors, helping users make sense of the layout.

The whole building will be tied together by repeating the building’s signature hexagonal pattern – a motif inspired by the double-height spaces’ monumental structural columns – in decoration both inside and on the façade of the building.

Contemporary quality

The library’s dated outward aesthetic is to be replaced with contemporary facade materials. The rooftop services will be discretely screened from view, while the surrounding landscaping will integrate the building into campus.