Magdalene College Library University of Cambridge Building Design, English Higher Education Architecture Photos

Magdalene College Library University of Cambridge Building

23 June 2022

RIBA Awards 2022 Winning Buildings and Architects

Magdalene College Library is one of the 29 winners of the 2022 RIBA National Awards for architecture.


RIBA Awards

29 May 2022

Location: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, southeast England, United Kingdom

Design: Niall McLaughlin Architects

Magdalene College University of Cambridge Building Design

Photos by Nick Kane

Magdalene College Library University of Cambridge Design

Jury Report

A brief to create a college library with a lifespan of 400 years – to replace a library gifted to Magdalene by Samuel Pepys 300 years previously – is no small task. Niall McLaughlin Architects have certainly risen to the challenge with this deft and inspiring temple to learning.

Magdalene College University of Cambridge Building Design

The library combines load-bearing brickwork with exquisitely detailed horizontal engineered timber structure to establish a lofty, surprisingly vertical space with a complex three-dimensional tartan grid. The library draws on familiar predilections from previous McLaughlin projects – the references to Louis Kahn’s handling of oak panelled window assemblies for example, via the housing for Summerville college, while also creating something wholly particular within the setting of the wider college. As with the best of the city’s many libraries, a great diversity of spaces to read and work are established, and reflecting its planned longevity, the building feels nicely slack – bookshelves are barely half filled and an extraordinary sense of space pervades, like inhabiting a hugely luxurious treehouse.

Magdalene College University of Cambridge Building Design

The design of this library has been strongly influenced by the requirements to passively light (characterised by the roof lanterns), and naturally ventilate the spaces (characterised by the stack effect ventilation chimneys and openings in the roof). Overall, the project presents exceptional engagement with environmental design principles. The predicted energy performance as a result exceeds the RIBA 2030 benchmark to be one of the best performing buildings of this year’s submissions.

Magdalene College University of Cambridge Building Design

The project is also one of the top submissions in terms of whole-life carbon considerations, and has addressed the RIBA 2025 benchmark. The structure is dominated by loadbearing brickwork, with horizontal support predominantly in engineered timber and to lesser extent as precast lintels and support beams. These material choices have successfully reconciled the existing constraints of the historic College context to deliver a building that will present a long and sustainable service life.

Magdalene College University of Cambridge Building Design

Magdalene College Library University of Cambridge – Property Information

Title: Magdalene College Library
RIBA region: East
Architect practice: Niall McLaughlin Architects
Date of completion: January 2021
Date of occupation: January 2021
Client company name: Magdalene College
Project city/town: Cambridge

Contract value: Confidential
Gross internal area: 1,525.00 m²
Net internal area: 1,223.00 m²
Cost per m²: Confidential
Contractor company name: Cocksedge


Structural Engineers: Smith & Wallwork
Project Management: Savills
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Gleeds
Acoustic Engineers: Max Fordham
Environmental / M&E Engineers: Max Fordham
Building Control: MLM


• RIBA Regional Award

Photographs: Nick Kane

Niall McLaughlin Architects

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Magdalene College University of Cambridge images / information received from the Royal Institute of British Architects

Location: Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, south east England, UK

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