We have designed a light-filled, elliptical rooftop reading room for the City, University of London’s new campus library.


Appointed via an OJEU competition, the university desired an ambitious and world-class architectural solution for the central London site, which sits next to the Northampton Square Conservation Area, several listed buildings and below a protected viewing corridor from Alexandra Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral. Their brief included working with the original 1970s building, designed by Richard Sheppard, Robson & Partners (now known as Sheppard Robson).


In response, we have designed a major extension to float above the existing building parapet and to be an expressive addition which celebrates the library function and university’s status as a global institution.


A glulaminated timber diagrid façade has been designed to offer a sense of enclosure internally while enabling unobstructed panoramic views of the Barbican and City skylines to the south and Islington to the north. This modern method of construction was proposed for its light-weight, sustainability and prefabrication benefits. It also draws on the materiality of the impressive, mature trees within the Northampton Square gardens, the canopies of which the new reading room will enjoy views.


In addition to the reading room, we are also refurbishing the 6th floor offices and study spaces to befit the prestigious university. The project targets a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating, and time on site will be limited so as not to disrupt students, staff and local residents.



The elliptical plan, which takes inspiration from the oval Northampton Square gardens adjacent the proposals, looks to engender a sense of student community and works to soften the existing building.


The new, elliptical-shaped seventh floor will serve as an open, light-filled and column-free reading room achieving spans of 45m x 17m. It features a central rooflight integrated into the crafted, geometric timber ceiling.


The design of the new study space respects and complements the current language of the building, whilst offering relief and enabling each element to distinguish itself from the other. The proposed facade approach reacts to the strong, repetitive horizontal and vertical articulation of the existing building with a subtle diagrid.

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