Library that's built to last wins UK's top architecture prize
Following the reveal of six shortlisted projects earlier this year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the 2022 winner of the Stirling Prize, the most prestigious award in British architecture. Níall McLaughlin Architects has won for its superbly designed New Library, Magdalene College in Cambridge, which is built to last at least 400 years.
Situated within the University of Cambridge's college grounds, the library is open to students 24 hours a day and replaces the cramped study spaces of the nearby 17th century Pepys Library. The understated project takes its place very well among the mishmash of buildings and courtyards that have gradually grown over the college's 700 or so years.
Visitors are greeted by a brick facade and large wooden doors, entering into a light and airy triple-height entrance hall and a double-height reading room at the building's center. A connecting passageway along its eastern end provides views across the college and gardens, and towards a nearby river, while several quiet study nooks are tucked away too.
Load-bearing brickwork is complemented by cross-laminated timber beams that provide the main horizontal support, with hardwood shelves and tables. Multiple chimneys create a stack effect to help ventilate the space naturally. Installed between each set of chimneys is a large vaulted skylight, helping bathe the interior with daylight and the overall effect is very impressive.
"A unique setting with a clear purpose – The New Library at Magdalene College is sophisticated, generous, architecture that has been built to last," said RIBA President Simon Allford. "Creating a new building that will last at least 400 years is a significant challenge, but one that Níall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility. The result – a solid and confident, yet deferential new kid on the college block.
"The light-filled, warm-wood interior lifts spirit and fosters connections. Students have been gifted a calm, sequence of connected spaces where they, and future generations, will be able to contemplate and congregate, enjoying it both together and apart. The overarching commitment to build something that will stand the test of time can be felt in every material and detail, and from every viewpoint. This is the epitome of how to build for the long-term."