Design critics: Shelve British Library plan!

Major facelift planned for rear of iconic site

Friday, 17th June — By Richard Osley

British library plans Somers town campics140422 Image 2022-04-14 at 9.53.32 PM (15)

How the new building could look

A NUMBER of eminent architects have sent letters to the Town Hall urging planners to reject a radical transformation of the British Library extension.

The New Journal revealed in April how residents in Somers Town are bracing themselves for the potential arrival of another big new building.

Designs show how the current extension to the library will be replaced with a 12-storey structure on the site next to the Francis Crick superlab.

The project has already been criticised for dedicating less than a quarter of the new space to library uses. The rest will be handed over for commercial use.

But the design is also now the source of debate in architectural circles after the proposals appeared in the trade press, with claims it is too imposing for the main library building which has Grade I-listing protection.

In one of the letters of objection received by Camden, experienced architect and university lecturer Nicholas Ray warned: “It would be an extraordinary act of short-term of vandalism that would provoke international opprobrium.”

He added that he did not see how the project could go ahead unless the library was delisted from its protected status, adding otherwise “the precedent it would set would make the Grade I listing meaningless.”

An artist’s impression how the new space could be used

Peter Deeney said: “The present proposals spread across the whole north face of the building, like a massive express train smashing in its path.”

Peter Carolin CBE, a professor at Cambridge University, added in his message: “The proposed demolition of the Library’s Conservation Centre is bad enough but the destruction of the circular drum and the impact of the new
building on the carefully designed north elevation of the library is horrendous.”

Several other architects and the 20th Century Society have also raised objections as planning officials review the designs.

The application from the library and its own architects for planning permission said the proposal “seeks a harmonious relationship with the existing library, despite obvious programmatic disparities between them.”

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