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Charles Holland Architects

Thornton Heath Library

The project looked to revitalise an existing Carnegie Library, built in 1914 into a successful new civic and educational building on a tight urban site.

The scheme involved the addition of a number of new elements that successfully transformed the existing building, solving complex access and usability issues and forming an important and welcoming new public facility.

Working closely with the client, library team and users groups  key needs and requirements ranging from meeting spaces for local community groups, to spaces for teenagers to meet to do homework, a reading area and café, and a children’s gardening and reading space were identified. The redesign also generated a completely new entrance sequence. The lower ground floor is opened up to form a children’s library and community meeting rooms, which also provide access to the rear garden. 

In addition to this spatial reconfiguration, the scheme adds three new elements; two rear extensions containing vertical circulation and staff areas and a bold new entrance pavilion, which serves as a form of shop-front to open up the previously enclosed library spaces to the busy pedestrian street it fronts onto. This new structure resolves the various access issues in a generously proportioned new entrance sequence and also provides an elegant new reading space inside. Together with other modifications, these new spaces doubled the usable area of the library, delivering value for money for the client by optimising their existing resources, and connecting the spaces to a new reading garden at the rear.

Given the sensitive context of the existing high street and the listed historic library, it was imperative to develop a design which would establish a new identity for the area without subsuming the existing characteristics so valued by the local community. 

The scheme not only helped revitalise the local neighbourhood but strengthened the weak street pattern and engaged with the surrounding community.

By conceiving the library as the 'living room of the city', a new juncture on the existing street line welcomed passers-by as well as those on double-decker buses which frequent the Brigstock Road.

Thornton Heath Library was designed by FAT 

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