University of Bristol Library\

A new world class university library

The library will provide a new world class facility and landmark building at the heart of the University’s Clifton precinct.

The role of the New Library

The New Library will be the flagship of the University of Bristol and provide an important academic function. As such it conveys the values and identity of both the library and the community it serves.

The New Library will be a world class facility for all, to support and enhance the services offered by the University’s broader library and study centres network. It will strengthen the University’s ability to provide high quality study spaces, programmes and events, and services to reach out to an increasing number of new students, researchers and academics.

It will host two significant collection components - Arts & Social Sciences Collections and Cultural Collections (Special Collections and the Theatre Collection), which are unique to other libraries within the UK Higher Education network.

The library will be a place to meet, read, think, research, share, create new ideas, make new discoveries. It forms the heart of the University of Bristol’s education and research endeavour.

“The new state-of-the-art library will be an integral part of the academic experience of so many of our students and staff – especially, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences. We are excited to be working with architects who understand the importance of creating libraries which delight and inspire innovation and discovery.”

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol

Addressing immediate and broader context

The proposed library building has a dynamic, stepping form that rises from three to seven storeys to negotiate a change in scale from the Victorian villas of neighbouring residential streets, to the civic and institutional buildings of the campus such as University’s Senate house.

Creating views and framing

Large scale picture windows are arranged in a regular rhythm across the façade, expanding and contracting to reveal and animate the internal activity of the building as well as provide views across the surrounding townscape and city center to the south. The building will be clad with natural limestone, arranged with a vertical emphasis that pairs with vertical fins over the windows to provide a contemporary nod to Bristol’s extensive collection of landmark buildings in the perpendicular gothic style.

“The ground floor will be open to all and will be home to a new Cultural Collections Centre as well as a café, gallery and event spaces to host talks and exhibitions.”

Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, University of Bristol

Active frontages

The ground floor will be a welcoming, permeable, publicly accessible space hosting events and exhibitions that will link the communities of the University with the wider City. The setting and accessibility of the building will be enhanced by a wider redesign of the surrounding street layout and public realm, which will establish the building as a gateway to the University precinct.

Public realm

The library will spearhead the University’s Campus Heart project to revitalise its Clifton Campus, benefitting from proposed new surrounding road layouts that will improve traffic flow, enhance pedestrian and cycling routes and making the surrounding public sphere more enjoyable, safer and accessible for everyone.

Working from the inside out

The interior design strategy was developed through consultation with both students and staff and looks to define areas where students can either work in a social, collaborative or private manner. The scheme looks to promote wellbeing for all users by introducing a palette of natural materials and colours derived from the local landscape. Views out of the building create a strong focal point and a variety of furniture solutions support different working methodologies. Key to the design was creating a strong identity for the building, which was grounded in the city and culture of Bristol.

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability
  • Collaboration

Project Summary

Project Team

Lead Architect: Hawkins\Brown
Collaborating Architect: Schmidt/Hammer/Lassen Architects
Interior Design: Hawkins\Brown and Schmidt/Hammer/Lassen Architects
Structural and Civil Engineer: Buro Happold
MEP and Sustainability/ Fire/ Acoustics: Buro Happold
Landscape Architect: Grant Associates
Transport: Arup
Planning Consultant: CSJ


The latest innovations in design theory and practice have been incorporated to ensure the library best supports the wellbeing of the students and staff. The proposal includes maximising natural daylight and natural ventilation; incorporation of timber internally that has a proven positive impact on the users experience; carefully designed spaces provide a sense of relaxation and support; inclusion of circadian lighting - a strategy that considers the circadian rhythm; and access to landscaped reading gardens.


We have partnered with Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects, an award winning Danish architectural practice. SHL have a distinguished track record of international library architecture. Our collaboration has allowed our expertise and experience of the UK Higher education sector to inform the evolving design proposal.

In addition we have worked closely with Buro Happold and Grants Associates to achieve a truly sustainable building, promoting health and well being, while meeting the University’s ambition of moving towards a zero-carbon future.

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