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a public library coventry

Part 1 Project 1998
Lotta Nyman
University of Nottingham, UK
The aim of the project is twofold:

First, to create a public library that is accessible to the public and plays a relative role in the social and cultural life of the city. Second, to repair an underused site and weave it back into the city

The first step was to clear the site of its numerous disused, unloved buildings, retaining only those with a cultural and historical relevance.

The new library is arranged in two blocks running roughly North to South. The easterly block acts as a barrier turning its back to the
existing service area on Priory Road, whereas the westerly block follows an important historical route, towards the city centre.

A four-lane artery of the city, Fairfax Street carries most of the pedestrian traffic to the site and therefore free access needed to be maintained from this harsh urban environment.

A mounded line of trees was introduced at the edge of Fairfax Street up towards the city centre, diverting the pedestrian traffic away from the roadside and into the site. From this promenade opens a series of spaces between the library blocks, following the natural slope of the site. From these series of public spaces are accessed the public uses, cafe, exhibition space, crèche, children's library and the main entrance.

Security and the necessary quiet are achieved through controlled entry on the ground floor followed by vertical zoning within each of the blocks. Entry and access between the upper levels are possible via a pair of glazed bridges spanning between the glazed rotunda of the west block and the circulation core of the east block. Layout of the library floors in both blocks is functional with linear arrangement of book-stacks and around a top-lit void in the east block. Special collections are kept in three raw concrete triple-storey silos along the west block. Private reading rooms are provided in a series of shaded pods cantilevered on a series of steel box-beams tied back to
the silos and informing the circulation of the west block.

The library is designed with flexibility in mind. Open
plans, will accommodate future growth and development.

Lotta Nyman

The brief for a new city library for Coventry was both complex and large, dealing not only with the normal organisational disciplines but also the issue of hierarchy of public and private accessibility. The site was also a challenging hard urban quarter. This student succeeded in transforming this difficulty into a well-worked and beautifully manipulated scheme at one with its setting as if the problem had been simple and small scale. The resolution is therefore contextual, carefully considered and worked. Actions and reactions are evident throughout the discipline of the scheme. Closer inspection reveals subtle shifts and nuances which are to be discovered and enjoyed by the user, culminating the discovery of the individual reading areas designed as high level 'oriel windows' facing the Cathedral.

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