In ancient days, libraries were centers of learning and collaboration, places where knowledge could be shared and spread. Banquets, conferences and important events were held in these monuments to learning. And now, the Lea Bridge Library in London will join this great tradition thanks to an incredible new design that marries Earth-friendly construction with people-centric spaces.

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Historic exterior of the library

Studio Weave, an architecture firm based in London, is behind this incredible design that includes a cafe and an adaptable community space. The building is connected to the outdoor gardens and then leads toward the Borough of Waltham Forest. Additionally, the design concept re-imagines the role of the modern library, which, perhaps fittingly, is a lot like the role of ancient libraries. Famous Greek thinkers, Roman scholars and great minds all over the world traveled to enormous libraries to study tablets and scrolls, to exchange ideas and, sometimes, to have fun.

Related: A little library provides a space for mental health

Exterior of the library shaded by trees

Studio Weave is also responsible for the huge new wing attached to the structure, which juts off the original Edwardian red brick library. The new wing sits next to the Friendship Gardens, while the existing western garden wall was incorporated into the design to add structural support. This then creates a seamless connection to the garden.

A child walking across a walkway outside the library

Furthermore, there is floor-to-ceiling glazing along the east elevation. This brings the outdoors into the interior space, in a sense, creating a visual connection between the two. The cantilevered beams are made of laminated veneer lumber to support the glazing and the floating ceiling overhead.

A curved glass window allowing natural light in

Meanwhile, the new library extension sits between mature trees. Nature was left unharmed. The extension also creates a rectangular-shaped floor plan that has a glass cut-out. This pavilion area protects the root system of one of the trees and makes for an attractive interior feature.

Sitting area crowded with people

The new colonnade runs along the length of the extension, with a gently graded natural stone walkway that leads to the rear event space. Red concrete panels and columns match the existing brick of the library even as it hides the drainage system, which captures and redirects water.

All-wood interior with a child and parent sitting

Visitors can skip past the quiet zone of the library, entering through the gardens at the side and in the rear. The main entrance, meanwhile, has been refurbished. There’s also a new washroom, a parking area and an upstairs staff room.

Accessible walkways within the library

The new cafe is in the foyer. Fluted timber joinery comes together to create a continuous wall, connecting the bookshelves with the built-in banquette seating. Moreover, the open floor plan creates spaces for public gatherings and allows for a passive cooling strategy. The ceiling is positioned to protect the floor from direct sunlight. The glass wall opens at intervals to allow cross-ventilation.

Wood wall within the library

Sustainability is, therefore, integrated into every detail of the design. Reuse was a main pillar of the design concept. In fact, all the timber used for internal joinery and furniture was salvaged from felled trees around public streets and parks throughout London. This salvage technique led to many different types of wood being used in the design. A local furniture maker also designed the banket and timber shelving. Custom chairs, tables and sofas were created for the space.

It’s a monument to learning, gathering, sustainable design, nature and to people. This library fills many roles. By merely existing, it inspires new ideas. And since those earliest days of libraries, that’s exactly what they were meant to do.

+ Studio Weave

Images via Jim Stephenson