History Faculty Library

James Stirling, Cambridge, 1968


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The staircase and gable wall at the southern end of the west wing. The reading room roof is on the right 

Richard Einzig     Download Original

  • The staircase and gable wall at the southern end of the west wing. The reading room roof is on the right    
  • View from the east with the sloping wall of the cycle park in the foreground    
  • The two entrance levels: Direct to the library on the right, and the staff entrance up ramp at the left    
  • History faculty seen from gardens between Sidgwick Avenue and West Road. The main entrances are on the left of the foot of the foot of the stair tower    
  • Looking out from third gallery level, showing the inclination of the glass and the battering back of the parapet top for betterdownward views    
  • Service catwalk    
  • Intakes of the ventilating fans above the limit of the lower glazed skin at the apex of the reading room    
  • Interior of the reading room, looking towards the control desk and catalogue racks    
  • Vertical view into the apex of the reading room brings together the essential elements of the design: the ventilating fans of the roof as an environmental system, and the access galleries to the two teaching rooms that form the two arms of the plan    
  • Site plan    
  • Plans    
  • Plans greyscale    
  • Axonometric of the History Faculty, from the north-east    
  • Diagram of reading room supervision system    
  • North elevation    
  • Diagram of the reading room roof as an environmental system    
  • Diagrammatic section of reading room heating and ventilation    
  • Vibration-damping suspension for ventilating fans    

A red brick clad, reinforced concrete L-shaped block containing staff rooms, offices, seminar rooms and common rooms for Cambridge University’s History Faculty Library

The two wings of the building are connected by the glazed pyramid of a reading room for 300 students.

The entrance/exit to the reading room opens directly into a control and enquiry area where the catalogues are housed. The book stack is on two levels and the shelving units fan radially on sight lines from the control-desk, which thus has total supervision of the reading room and book stack. The control desk is also a console from which heating, lighting and ventilation are adjusted.

The extract machines at the top of the glazed roof are also controlled from this desk. The reading room seating is either in specialist reading bays or at large tables in the main space. Beyond the bookstack there is a continuous bench top also for student use.

The design of the History Faculty building was the subject of a limited competition in 1963. The building was completed in 1968 and awarded a R.I.B.A. (Royal Institute of British Architects) Gold Medal in 1970.


  • Begun: 1964
  • Completed: 1968
  • Floor area: 2,300m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Address: West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9EF, United Kingdom

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