Next Project

Hartlib Library

Part 1 Project 1998
Philip Waind
University of Sheffield, UK
"Many shall go too and fro and knowledge shall be increased" - Samuel Hartlib.

Samuel Hartlib, a Polish-Prussian exile who settled in London in the late 1920's, devoted his considerable energies and intellectual vitality to establish contacts with all the philosophers, scientists and experimenters of Europe of his day, regardless of the barriers of language, nationality, status or religion - Hartlib witnessed the birthpangs of moden scientific thought, and ultimately realised a future culture based around pure information.

Since 1987 the 'Hartlib Papers Project' has engaged in the transcription and editing of the entire body of manuscripts into a digital/electronic form. A virtual archive, employing hyper/multi media technologies prevents the knowledge becoming trapped in modern structures of thought. It is the intention of the project to offer the 'virtual archive' online on the World Wide Web. Hartlib would have loved the internet! It represents the ultimate system of collection and dissemination of knowledge, and relects Hartlib's ideal of knowledge as a public resource.

Hartlib was at the 'cutting edge' of technology for his time - therefore a building which is to honour him and house his papers must celebrate ultra modern technologies of our digital era. The building must explore the spatial and techtonic potential of the current multi media programme. The 'Hartlib Library / Media centre' thus becomes a resource library for the manipulation of contemporary interactive technologies, and a final 'resting place' for the original manuscripts - A library at a cusp poised between the legacy of Samuel Hartlib and the promise of the digital era.

Contrasting the stable physicality of the original manuscripts with the unstable, transient immateriality of computer images, the building attempts to illustrate the demise of traditional structures overturned by the information revolution. Architectural space synthesises both real/virtual, electronic/spatial inducing a blurring between the divisions of reality. The inherent flux of new media technologies is captured in light, fluid, gravity defying spaces, responding to the forces shaping the 21st century.

The library expresses media in both form and function - an information saturated bliss.
Philip Waind

Philip Waind's project for the Hartlib Library is an exuberant, explosive solution expressing the implicit dynamism of the existing site forces. The project is based around the provocative engagement of contemporary infomation technology and the precious archive of 17th century papers. The project was assessed at first class level and is supported by thorough precedent and technical studies.


The papers of Samuel Hartlib constitute a unique and valuable archive that creates a comprehensive picture of seventeenth century European intellectual culture. The Hartlib Papers Research Project at Sheffield University is responsible for transcribing and translating the documents aswell as producing an edition of the papers in electronic form.

The intention of this design project is to create an appropriate facility where the papers can be safely housed and exhibited, and which would also provide a focus for continuing research into the diverse range of subjects which they embrace. The accomodation includes public and specialist reading rooms, an environmentally controlled valuable book store, exhibition space and a lecture theatre.


The Hartlib Library is the major third year project (12 weeks in duration). Its general intention is to encourage an integration of the diverse range of subjects covered in the course.

Assessment was based on the following criteria:

- Awareness and understanding of design precedents.

- Successful integration for proposed design within the existing context.

- Consideration of character of external spaces created around the proposed building.

- Development of a coherent design strategy and its integration with the technical aspects of the design,

- Consideration of qualitative aspects of the major interior spaces.

• Page Hits: 1587         • Entry Date: 08 January 1998         • Last Update: 10 May 2001