Wright & Wright Architects : Longwall Library

More than 160 years after its construction, the longwall library of Magdalen College, part of the prestigious institution of the University of Oxford, is getting a makeover. Designed by the English firm Wright & Wright Architects, the extension and renovation of the old Victorian building includes two new wings upgrading the cloister they plant.

The history of the Longwall Library begins in 1851, when British architect John Chessell Buckler sets out to build what was to be the hall of the renowned institution, part of the university then falling into ruin. A few years later, for no apparent reason, the construction of the medieval Victorian hut recognizable by its turret, its massive limestone stone battlements and its majestic windows, stops abruptly. In 1928, the architect Giles Gilbert Scott, famous for having created the famous red telephone booths in London, takes up the torch and transforms the monument into a library, which he delivers in 1931.

With a capacity of only 48 readers, for more than 600 students at Magdalen College, the building quickly becomes obsolete. In 2014, the Academy of Excellence calls on the British agency Wright & Wright Architects, recognized for its achievements for major institutions such as the University of Cambridge or the Royal College of Art in London. Their intervention consists of the restoration of the advanced aging building - leaking roof, floors concealing the openings, poor acoustics and other air pollution - and the creation of two additional pavilions arranged on one level in L.


This additional bipartite surface, skirting to the west the old building and to the south the street located at a higher level, makes it possible to redefine the boundaries of the enclosed enclosure. Against the original building, a parallelepiped 27 meters long and 9 meters wide, hosts offices and, contiguous, a seminar room and storage space. It is connected to the second perpendicular wing by a patio and a large airlock where there are seats providing a discussion area or waiting for students. This new part houses a reading room 22 meters long and 10 wide with a capacity of 120 students, with 3 200 linear meters of storage, and a study room of 30 square meters juxtaposed with the together in a square volume.

The wide glass openings of the Clipsham limestone extension, extracted in the north of the country, and the sinuous terrace on which it is oriented invite scholars to enjoy the calm of the place and to consult the many books available. while bringing life to the garden that was previously unoccupied.

As for the ancestral work, meticulously restored in limestone from the Cotsworld region of western England, it shelters on the ground floor shelving and in its square tower a spiral staircase leading to west arm of the extension and, on the floors, two new reading trays superimposed 132 square meters each. These mezzanines are detached from the facade to bring natural light into the deepest part of the place and highlight the beauty of its stained glass windows over five meters high and its majestic wooden frame.

What to study with confidence in an environment respectful of history.

To learn more, visit the Wright & Wright Architects site

Photographs: Dennis Gilbert
Illustrations: Wright & Wright Architects

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