University of Reading Library

Phased refurbishment to bring a library up to modern standards

The library was a 1960s building that had an uncertain future because it did not cater for the evolving study methods of students, with the rise in self-led study and collaborative group working. The building had had little modernisation since the early 1980s. The scope of works was an initial phase of two floors of the five-storey building.

The building works included internal partition alterations, installing new ceilings, toilets and external glazing with brises soleils and total replacement of the M&E systems on the fifth floor. LEDs were used to overhaul the original ‘skylight’ effect lighting units in the double height reading room.

The University wanted to invest in long-lasting furniture that could potentially be moved and used elsewhere. We provided a wide range, from demountable acoustic pods to individual work bays. There were also a large number of original tables and chairs that were refurbished back to as-new.

The new design of the library provides areas for the students to study in various size groups or as individuals. Our graphic design team designed the manifestation and other graphic elements, themed around books, academia, silence and architectural forms from the building. The project has been a great success and the University has now decided to refurbish the remaining areas.


Over a period of five years, and now into its third phase, we have worked together with the project architects and interior designers to sensitively introduce graphic elements to complement the 1960s library building’s interior features.

Phase 1 – manifestation and wall graphics.

We studied the building fabric for inspiration, identifying a ceiling rose detail that we developed into a motif which would form the basis for glazing manifestations and wall coverings. On the fifth floor we differentiated, and reiterated, it’s use for silent study by referencing the buildings use as a library. We used literature extracts and quotations relating to learning and silence, these were applied across wall coverings and glazing manifestations.

Phase 2 – improving wayfinding in the primary stair wells and lift lobbies.

Following the method set out in phase 1 of minimal intervention we introduced simple, large scale floor numbers and department titles, to enable people arriving at each landing to orientate themselves. Information plans, directories and notices were organised into discreet areas to keep a sense of order and tidiness.

Phase 3 – extending the work from the previous two phases across the entire building, including exterior additions.

Phase three carries on from where phase two left off – extending the graphic elements to the remaining three floors, of the building’s five floors, requiring refurbishment. The café, reception desk area, help desks and print hubs, and staff areas have each had elements introduced to carry on the look and colour palette of the previously refurbished areas. A variation on the graphic motif, used throughout the library’s common areas, has been developed for the staff areas, this provides differentiation of the two spaces. Externally, bronze panels fret cut with the same variation on the octagon motif clad sections of the building.