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Adding incremental layers of new build

in Education Design & Build
Jan / Feb 2012

Photos: Nicholas Kane

'The new library building at Emmanuel College Cambridge by Kilburn Nightingale Architects is the latest example of the practice's particular approach to working with existing buildings in a historic context.'

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'THE DESIGN supports the nature and aesthetic of the cloistered spaces of the existing college architecture simply by attaching itself to adjoining buildings and so creating new enclosures, including one that greatly improves the relationship with Emmanuel's library gardens.

The new library interacts as much as possible with neighbouring buildings - in a "gently playful manner", says Kilburn Nightingale. Vistas, for example, create a "hide-end-seek like effect" revealing occasional glimpses of the building. The way in which the library's sweet chestnut cladding is broken down by vertical windows of stained and etched glass adds to this sense of conversation and play with its surroundings.

'This dialogue continues inside where Kilburn Nightingale has refurbished the older part of the library (the Stokes Building. completed In 1930). partially rebuilt and extended the 1970s extension (the Cruickshank Budding) as well as creating approximately 500sqm of new library accommodation. Access between old and new buildings has been resolved in a way that improves overall circulation.

Study bays

'Additions to the College's existing library will increase the number of reader spaces and offer extra book and archive storage. They also offer environmental improvements for books and readers. Particular care has gone into the design of individual study bays; there is an opening window adjacent to each reader.

'"The bays at Emmanuel are all about allowing readers to inhabit and feel ownership of a part of the library. For us, as architects, the experience of sitting at a desk and reading a book is at the heart of the whole design, and central to the form of the new building," says Ben Kilburn of Kilburn Nightingale Architects.

'These seemingly private spaces are juxtaposed with a convivial open-plan room at the top of the building intended for more infonnal use including browsing periodicals and the internet. This room is top-lit and has been treated like an indoor garden in terms of feel and layout. Daylight dappling across the floor highlights the all-important relationship with the outdoors.'