£57 million library is Aberdeen’s impressive new landmark

“Much more than a conventional library….a landmark building, a bold architectural statement: powerful, dignified, inviting, and a positive contribution to the Aberdeen skyline” is how the newly completed £57 million library building at the University of Aberdeen, has been described by the university.

As well as providing a flexible, 21st century environment for over 16,000 students and the University’s international community of academics, the new library also provides a secure storage and preservation environment for over 200,000 rare books and manuscripts. The new building replaces the university’s Queen Mother Library.

The project to construct the new library was carried out my Main contractors Pihl UK, with Schmidt Hammer Lassen as Project Architects, who won a design competition to create a concept for the new building. The library has been designed to match the university’s international academic ambitions and to be inviting and of value, not only to the university population, but also to the local and Scottish community, and to researchers, academics and visitors from around the world.

The building, which is nine storeys high with a basement level and incorporates significant  Caithness stone elements in its design, was conceived as a cube evoking the ice and light of the north.  The building features a sharp, modern design, and a striking interior of sweeping contours around an asymmetrical atrium, which rises diagonally from the public ground floor through the floors above.

According to the university, the library is: “A glittering building with resonances of the north. An inviting, finely-landscaped public square, drawing the visitor in to a spacious, light and airy ground-floor plaza, with luminous views up through the open atrium, and connecting the lively public spaces of the café, exhibition and event area with the monumental foundation of historical collections below and the flexible, functional, bookstacks and study areas of the floors above. Views over the chapel tower, the city and the coastline connect the library with the community it serves.”

The new building features: a high quality internal environment which is light, spacious, and airy;  a main book store with areas dedicated to optimal storage and access for ‘heavy demand’, reference, items, plus reader spaces, of varying types, groupings and locations, all with IT systems facilitating hard-wired PCs and wireless access

Other features include: secure, environmentally controlled areas for the special historic collections and archives, with an associated suite of supervised reading areas; a conservation lab to maintain the university’s treasures, and those of other northern collections, and various public areas including a café and space for exhibitions, readings and other events on the ground floor.

The building is also BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rated, providing the highest standards relating to sustainability, acoustics, material choices, safety and security, and fully compliant with disability access.

Speaking at the start of construction, Mr Aird Buist, Manager, Pihl UK Ltd, said: ‘The new building is an elegant and iconic addition to an established world class university. This gives us the opportunity to enhance the educational experience for those within the university and wider community. Working with the University of Aberdeen and the project team, we truly believe we can provide the construction link in the creation of this outstanding facility.

“This modern design includes many exciting structural elements but these will not be seen within the finished building. It is quite unusual for so many of these elements to be incorporated into one building.”

Angus Donaldson, Director of Estates at the University, added: “The library contract is a hugely significant milestone in the ongoing development and enhancement of the university estate and the facilities we are able to offer our communities. This stunning building sets a new benchmark in terms of physical and design quality.”

Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal and academic lead for the project said: “The new library will provide the very best learning and research environment for the university and a fitting home for our historic library and archival collections.  It will also open up those collections to all of the wider communities that we serve, as well as making a stunning addition to the architecture of Aberdeen. A building designed to the highest architectural standards deserves the very highest standards in its execution, and that is why we are delighted to have Pihl UK onto the library team.”

Construction began in September 2009, with the library opening to students, staff and the community in September 2011.


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