University of Bristol plans landmark library building at heart of its campus

February 14, 2020

A world-class library housing more than 400,000 books – many of them extremely rare – could be built in the heart of the University of Bristol’s Clifton campus.

The university has submitted the plans for the landmark building to Bristol City Council following public consultation last year. 

The scheme, on the corner of Elton Road and Woodland Road, also includes a new civic square with proposed new road layouts to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian and cycling routes.

The university said the new library would transform the centre of the campus and provide an architecturally significant new building for the city, along with improved public spaces.

Behind the design is a collaborative team formed by renown architects and consultants Schmidt Hammer Lassen, Hawkins\Brown and BuroHappold – companies behind some of Europe’s top education and library projects.

The library will be open to the community as well as students and staff and will make the university’s world-class cultural collections more accessible.

The building will accommodate learning and research space, with capacity for around 2,000 new study seats, approximately 420,000 books and 70,000 journals and new study spaces.

There will be exhibition galleries open to the public, an events space, a programme of activities, new public art and a café, all of which will be open to the whole community.

It will replace The Hawthorns – a former hotel which currently houses some student accommodation, catering facilities and various offices.

While modern in design, the library will be built in natural stone to be in keeping with the historic nature of listed buildings nearby. It features a stepped design to integrate with the local built environment.

It will meet high sustainability standards, with a focus on natural light, a high level of energy efficiency, a low environmental impact and green roof terraces.

Plans also include a new civic square, with proposed new road layouts to improve traffic flow and public transport, enhance the pedestrian and cycling routes and make the whole area safer and accessible for everyone.

Hawkins\Brown partner Adam Cossey said it would provide an inspirational new landmark for Bristol with world-class facilities in an inclusive and welcoming environment.

“The new library building has the potential to transform the relationship between the university and the wider city, extending a welcome to the public and acting as a gateway to the revitalised Clifton Campus.”

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor and provost Prof Judith Squires said the new building would not only provide an outstanding new space for students and staff to research and learn but was also a unique opportunity for the university to create a new cultural space for all the citizens of Bristol to enjoy.

“The ground floor will be open to all and will be home to a new Cultural Collections Centre as well as a cafe, gallery and event spaces to host talks and exhibitions,” she said.

“We are also planning to enhance the public realm around the new University Library, turning a congested road junction into a calm and welcoming civic space, making the roads safer and creating new accessible public space for everyone to enjoy.”

Bristol City Council is expected to decide on the planning application in late spring, when the university will be able to give more information on an anticipated timeline.

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