Private Library
In it’s young life the building that is the site for this project would have witnessed the birth of enlightenment thinking that would come to have so much in influence on the culture and institutions of today’s world. The modern library and museum owe their existence to the intellectual curiosity of the natural philosopher of the eighteenth century. These philosophers lived and worked among collections of writing, of art and of all manner of natural and artificial curiosities, collected for scientific observation, classification and theoretical speculation. Their rationalist researches were radical and dangerous to the adherents of biblical certainties; their studies in archaeology and anthropology would find fruit later in religious and racial tolerance. Their prototype museums and libraries were laboratories and cauldrons for the radical liberal rationalist thinking that would shape and colour the culture and civilisation of the western world. It seemed therefore completely fitting that the present owner should be a polymath of the twenty first century and appropriately unsurprising that his own collection should have outgrown the constraints of the four storey seventeenth century building that is the centre of his London life. Happily the opportunity existed to rework a last century roof modification to provide much needed additional space without disturbing the historic building that remains underneath. The new library space was conceived as an architectural celebration of liberation through enlightenment. The journey to the new space requires a climb through the seventeenth century to reach the twenty first. A hint of the space to come is given by the new skylight which replaces an earlier century light now lost, over the staircase of 1695. This skylight doubles as the continuation of the main staircase up to a gallery that appears to float within the new library volume. The walls and ceiling of the library are created as a single surface, a metaphorical sky stretching between the shared walls of the neighbouring buildings. Punctuating this vault are openings bringing actual skylight and sunshine through the two levels of the library and down into the staircase below. Externally and internally the position and treatment of these openings express the change through continuity between old and new. During the day the new space is entirely naturally lit. At night lighting the space is achieved by reflection from the illumination of the collection and through emphasis of the architectural structure of the interior.


26 photos and 7 drawings

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  • Nadezhda Nikolova
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