Monday, July 17, 2000

Peckham Library

Peckham Library in London, England by William Alsop & Jan Störmer, 2000

Located in one of London's less desirable neighborhoods, Peckham, the new library by William Alsop & Jan Störmer is one of three elements (as well as the Peckham Arch and the Health and Fitness Centre) defining Peckham Square, created to regenerate the area. I do not know the designs for the arch or the health club but if they approach public space similarly to the library then the chances of success are definitely increased.


The library is basically an "L"-shaped building, though instead of the "L" standing upright, as would be expected, it is turned 90 degrees to create a covered, urban space. A row of thin, tubular columns fall at different angles to support the cantilever and further define this outdoor space. The change in column angles hints at the playfulness the architects continued inside, as well as providing a practical function of resisting horizontal forces; almost like avant-garde bracing.


The nighttime view at left shows the promise of the plaza when the library opens in early September. The structural-glass wall acts as a backdrop for open-air events while the building itself acts as a canopy, giving scale and providing shelter. The back of the library (top image) uses colored glass for its faces, while the other three faces of the "L" use pre-patinaed copper panels. A red "blob" peaks over the parapet towards the plaza, another hint at the interior's qualities.


Three wood-clad pods are the most distinctive features of the library, housing the children's library, and Afro-Caribbean literature center and a meeting space. These elements help to distinguish the library from other, more sterile designs that are prevalent. While this move may not have been justified at Britain's new National Library, it is a commendable gesture in an area trying to improve itself. The unique design, coupled with the outdoor space it creates, will help to bring in people from all over London, extending the library's reach and creating energetic (see positive) urban spaces.

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