4 March 2010
Oxford University’s world-famous Bodleian Library today unveils its plans for the restoration and renovation of the New Bodleian library building. The long-awaited project, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects (WEA), has three aims: to create high quality storage for the Library’s valuable Special Collections, which include the precious manuscripts, books and maps that the Bodleian preserves for the international world of scholarship; to develop the Library’s facilities for the support of advanced research; and to expand public access to its great treasures through new exhibition galleries and other facilities. Planning permission and Listed Building Consent will be applied for at the end of March.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘The improvements to the New Bodleian building are long overdue. Thanks to the generosity of the donors who have contributed to this project, we are at last able to move forward with this exciting and much-needed development. This major investment of £78m will enable the library both to protect its great collections and to open them up to readers, researchers and the public in an historic building that has been reinterpreted for the 21st century.’
Richard Ovenden, Associate Director and Keeper of Special Collections, said: ‘The New Bodleian was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s. It was built, essentially, as a huge book fortress. Wilkinson Eyre Architects has created a stunning design that respects the building’s heritage while at the same time modernising our infrastructure and providing better facilities for students and researchers, as well as greater opportunities for collaboration with and outreach to the wider community.’
‘This is a major project for a working academic library. We need to move over 3.5 million books out of the building before work begins. As a working University library, we will continue to deliver our normal high standards of book and information delivery. We are fortunate to have excellent temporary facilities available for students and readers during the redevelopment.’
Jim Eyre, Director at Wilkinson Eyre Architects, commented: ‘This is a very exciting project for us. It is both a privilege and a challenge to be working within such an important historic context as this, and with such a unique collection of books and manuscripts. Our design aims to celebrate these precious objects by providing improved storage and preservation space, but also to increase public access and appreciation of this cultural and intellectual landmark.’
The plans have been unveiled at a public exhibition at the New Bodleian Library, Parks Road, Oxford. Planning permission and Listed Building Consent will be applied for at the end of the month. Subject to this approval being received, the renovation and remodelling work will take five years and the building will reopen in 2015.
The New Bodleian building has been in urgent need of upgrading to modern standards appropriate for one of the largest and most important repositories of historical and legal deposit materials in the world. These will ensure the building complies with national standards for the storage of the Library’s unique Special Collections.
Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the New Bodleian Library is listed Grade II and was completed in 1940. Featuring an innovative design for that time, the building has 11 floors. The three below-ground floors house approximately 50% of the existing bookstacks. The Bodleian Library has consulted extensively with English Heritage, preservation groups and the City of Oxford to develop a plan that respects the best aspects of Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic 1930s building whilst opening it up to readers and visitors in a sympathetic fashion. The Upper Floor Reading Room, envisaged by the architect but never used as such, will be restored by removing a 1960s addition to the top of the building.
The renovation of the New Bodleian is part of an integrated strategy to improve the management of and access to the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections. To accommodate the books now housed in the New Bodleian and to provide space for the Libraries’ growing collections, the University is constructing a book storage facility in Swindon which will open in late 2010; it also plans to upgrade storage in the underground bookstore under Radcliffe Square to enable direct access to high-use books by readers.
The Garfield Weston Foundation generously donated £25 million; in honour of this bequest, the New Bodleian will reopen in 2015 as the Weston Library.
About Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Wilkinson Eyre Architects is one of the UK’s leading architectural practices, with a portfolio of national and international award-winning projects. Its designs are widely recognised and have received extensive media, public and professional acclaim and numerous awards including, uniquely, the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture in two consecutive years, for the Magna Project in 2001 and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in 2002. Current projects include the spectacular Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China, two of the world’s biggest glasshouses in Singapore for the Gardens by the Bay project, the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, a Maggie’s Centre in Oxford, the remodeling of gallery space and the creation of a new learning centre at the Museum of London, and a new building for the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Oxford.