London Library

Haworth Tompkins, London, 2010


Subscribe now to instantly view this image

Subscribe to the Architects’ Journal (AJ) for instant access to the AJ Buildings Library, an online database of nearly 2,000 exemplar buildings in photographs, plans, elevations and details.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Reading room 

Philip Vile (website)     Download Original

  • Reading room    
  • View into reading room    
  • Book stacks    
  • Entrance    
  • Intimate spaces overlook the lightwell    
  • Lightwell above reading room    
  • New staircase leads to a reworked mezzzanine in the Art Room    
  • One of many varied internal spaces    
  • Reception looking onto lightwell    
  • The issue hall, viewed from the new members    
  • The new Times Room    
  • Veil of painted perforated brass panels line the reading room    
  • Site plan    
  • Basement floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Section    
  • Section    
  • Section through main stair    
  • Sitewide Model    
  • Artroom lines    
  • Section pre-construction    
  • Lightwell Elevations    
  • Lightwell Perspective    
  • High Level Section    
  • Rooftops Model    
  • Roof Terrace Lines    
  • New Book Stack Section    
  • Courtyard Stack Lines    
  • New Book Stack Model    

Renovation and reorganisation of the library's collection of buildings in order to clarify patterns of use, and increase available capacity

Over 114 years, the expanding London Library had become a labyrinth of conjoined buildings occupying a corner of St. James's Square. The restoration has brought clarity to the institution.

The design proposal aimed to meet the demands of the Library’s growth by increasing capacity whilst reformulating circulation through the addition of a lift, stairs and a new member’s entrance from Mason’s Yard. The redevelopment also provides 42 additional reader spaces, 1.25km of shelving and a conservation studio.

Central to the scheme is the creation of a four-storey high glass-roofed reading room from a previously blocked Victorian light-well. This reading room is furnished with bespoke fixtures: oak desks, chairs and light fittings that have been specified to reference the library’s existing furniture but with a contemporary feel.

The London Library, founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841, is the world’s largest independent lending library, with over 1,000,000 books and 8,000 members.


  • Begun: Aug 2008
  • Completed: Jul 2010
  • Floor area: 1,987m2
  • Sectors: Arts and culture, Civic, Education
  • Total cost: £6.9M
  • Procurement: Construction management
  • Address: 14 St. James's Square, London, SW1Y 4LG, United Kingdom

Professional Team