Magdalene College Library

Education & Public Sector

Location: Cambridge

Architect: Niall McLaughlin Architects

Client: Magdalene College

Structural engineer: Smith & Wallwork

Main contractor: Cocksedge

CLT structure: Eurban Limited

Glulam structure: Neue Holzbau

Joinery: Wedd Joinery Limited

Timber external doors, windows, shutters & cladding: Piper Joinery Limited

Internal timber doors & screens: Trojanwood Joinery Limited

Wood supplier: James Latham

Species: spruce (Switzerland, Austria), oak (Switzerland, Italy, Croatia)

“Magdalene College Library is a tour de force of architectural design and achievement. The different forms of the reading rooms are beautiful and experienced sequentially as they lead one through the building. The brick, timber and stone has been designed exquisitely with a thorough understanding of their intrinsic qualities.”
– Jim Greaves

Magdalene College Library is an arrangement of simple brick volumes with timber windows and pitched roofs echoing the gabled architecture of the existing college. Built alongside the Grade I listed Pepys Library, it is the first substantial addition to the main site in over 50 years. The new library is a suite of interconnecting rooms lined with bookcases, reading desks and galleries, arranged on a tartan grid between linking passageways. Three main reading rooms organise the principal circulation route through the library, from the three-storey entrance hall to a double-height central reading room, up to a long single-height room with a view out to the garden at the top of the building. The stepping of these spaces in section is followed by the stepping of the plan form, which allows the building to address the differently scaled garden spaces on its east and west elevations. The interior spaces are created by a glulam and CLT structure, supported on load bearing brickwork and populated with oak shelves and tables. The intention is for all the key features to be perceived as an interwoven set of elements. Roof lights, columns, floor beams, shelves, windows, desks, and balustrades form a coherent warp and weft throughout the space. The roof is formed a grid of timber lanterns with glazed gables separated by wide internal gutters. The lanterns bring light into the depth of the plan, while their geometry limits glare and overheating. The roof lanterns are supported by brickwork chimneys that provide fresh air circulation.