Part of a larger masterplan, the project was to refurbish the Science Museum’s existing 545 m2 Dana Centre, which was noisy and uncomfortable. It occupied the lower ground, ground and mezzanine levels of the Museum’s Wellcome Wolfson Building. The tall space had east-facing double-height glazing, where a reduction in glare and direct solar gain were priorities.


After winning the invited competition, we were asked to reconfigure the entire space to create the library, a research bar, quiet study area, staff offices, a rare book viewing area and a help desk, all focusing on the central reading room.


The client wanted an efficient and cost-effective design that resulted in quiet, comfortable and well-lit premises befitting an institution of its stature and reputation.


One of our central conceits was a double-layered perforated screen to reduce glare and solar gain from the east-facing glazing. It produces the dappled light you get under a tree canopy and looks like a computer punch card.


Far from random, these effects were inspired by two critical moments in the history of science: the Jacquard loom control mechanism that presaged the computer age, and the apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head, leading to an understanding of gravity.


Bookcases surround the reading spaces, where mirrors, oak, and white walls complement the even, bright dappled light.


The Science Museum’s Head of Masterplan Projects, Anna Dejean, loved working with Coffey Architects: “They have delivered a sensitive, beautiful and timeless library, which will allow visitors to enjoy our archive and print collection for generations to come.


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Project credits


  • Project Director: Lee Marsden
  • Associate: Michael Henriksen
  • Architectural Assistant: Anna Rubin
  • Architectural Assistant: Selena Dong


  • 2016 BD Architect of the Year Awards, Best Interior Architect of the Year - shortlist


  • Structural: Fothergill Consulting Engineers
  • M&E: SVM Consulting Engineers
  • Lighting: Studio ZNA
  • Project Management: Lendlease
  • QS: Turner & Townsend

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