Crawley Library creates a new major civic building and destination for the community comprising public library, Register Office, together with Social Services facilities. Our brief was to develop these areas in an accessible and welcoming integrated development forming part of a long term masterplan for the wider area around a new public open space, bringing together the various stakeholder in a timeless yet contemporary civic building.
The key design drivers were to create a welcoming inclusive space for all, provide clarity of organization and to support flexible layouts making it possible for future change. The strategy created a building arranged around a feature ‘ribbon’ staircase and a prominent central atrium which turns around on itself to effectively open up visual connectivity. Generous windows showcase the library to passers by with high ceilings at ground and first floor creating a welcoming ambiance. The ground floor combines key elements such as the children’s library, teenage area, café and help point dealing with local council services. The staircase leads to the main browsing area with study areas and seating equipped with newspapers for members to relax. Flexible meeting rooms are located on the first floor as well as an IT suite. The second floor hosts the quieter study area with its innovative video wall, and the reference area providing more intimate seating overlooking a green roof and terrace.
The vision was to create a welcoming ‘living room in the city’ with facilities to encourage visitors. A striking and inviting atrium offers a clear orientation and allows visitors to linger in the building. Families can visit together with the option of a children’s library, teenager space and café all on the same floor.
Consultation and community participation formed an important part of the client’s requirements and detailed aspects of the brief were developed through extensive liaison with library and registration service staff and end users. The consultation drew on workshops with artists Gordon Young and Anna Sandberg, which clarified library end user priorities and informed an art commission for a series of engraved oak columns carrying quotations of favourite books etched into the stripped oak trees.
The £12m project was completed in September 2008 with the opening taking place in December 2008. The project was finished on time and to budget.
Designed for sustainability and comfort, the building has a high thermal mass, controlled daylighting, a sophisticated mixed mode ventilation system and a biomass boiler. From the start the design has been developed following best practice sustainability principles. Simple methods of energy conservation such as exposed thermal mass, controlled daylighting, natural stack effect and cross ventilation are used to minimise heat gains. The sophisticated mix mode ventilation strategy, good natural lighting and the use of a biomass boiler also contributed to the achievement of a BREEAM rating of Very Good. This strategy has resulted CO2 emissions (Design) of 11.94 kgCO2/m2/yr compared with 30.31 kgCO2/m2/yr required under the Building Regulations Part L2A calculations.
Awards: 2010 RIBA Award Winner 2009 West Sussex Design and Sustainability Awards ‘Overall Winner’