The Old Library Liverpool Building, Green Lane Property, Old Swan, OMI Architects News

The Old Library Liverpool Building

1 May 2022

Address: The Old Library, Green Lane, Old Swan, Liverpool L13 7EB

The Old Library, Liverpool, Northwest England, UK

6 projects have been awarded RIBA Northwest Awards.

Design: OMI Architects

The Welcome Building, RHS Garden Bridgewater
photo © Peter Cook

The Old Library, Liverpool by OMI Architects

Jury Report

The Old Library, a much-loved community asset which was closed in 2006, after 100 years use as a library, had fallen into a state of neglect and disrepair. It was placed on Liverpool’s ‘Buildings At Risk’ register. Meanwhile, a local charity group had been established nearby to address the lack of childcare in the area. They had no permanent space but evolved through a series of portacabins due to demand. Lister Steps’ charitable mission is to enhance the life chances of families and individuals in the area and they identified the library as a potential ‘home’ for their cause. The brief to a shortlisted architect competition was to create a nursery and community hub within the confines of the existing, dilapidated building for a modest budget.

The Old Library Liverpool building
photo © Paul Karalius

The result is an incredible social gesture with ‘something for everyone’ and a unique example of retro-fit. Carnegie’s historic structure has been divided diagonally to retain a single main entrance foyer whilst encouraging social interaction through a public cafe, community hub and main events hall. The central hub also offers quiet workspaces for teenagers to complete homework. Beyond a secure access is another half of the building where young nursery and pre-school facilities are offered, complete with after-school club.

The Old Library Liverpool building
photo © Paul Karalius

The building engages, stimulates and delights. It caters for all stages of life in a unique and quirky way. There is a sense of ordered chaos in the eclectic mix of activity but with a consistent quirky approach to architecture. The existing structure itself has been restored where required but not bleached of its years. Instead the budget has been expertly balanced between restoration and new use. Insertions have been made only where necessary and with a consistently clear approach to intervention.

The outdoor play spaces are connected to the building through clear new window and door insertions whilst play equipment such as a slide connects the first floor. Minimum footprint new-build elements have been added to house an after school club and catering kitchen where the existing envelope could not accommodate the full brief. Offices have been modelled at upper levels within the existing shell and via a new mezzanine within the second hall – intentionally creating a smaller scale for the young users of the nursery space whilst allowing new insertions to step away from historic structure and retain the original double height space.

The Old Library Liverpool building
photo © Paul Karalius

This is a highly complex project with escalating space requirements within an existing shell and limited budget. The tenacity of the architect is to be commended in creating a project befitting of brief and community whilst adopting guardianship of the existing building. The building is a topical and relevant demonstration of re-use and social value. Liverpool City Council should be as thankful to Lister Steps for the saving of a heritage asset as the client is to the architect for answering their brief in a playful but respectful manner.

The Old Library Liverpool building
photo © Paul Karalius

RIBA region: Northwest
Architect practice: OMI Architects
Date of completion: Oct 2020
Date of occupation: Oct 2020
Client company name: Lister Steps
Project city/town: Liverpool
Contract value: £3,800,000.00
Gross internal area: 1,040.00 m²
Net internal area: 983.00 m²
Cost per m²: £3,100.00 / m²
Significant External works (~£500,000) formed part of the contract. Cost/Area above relates to works to the building.
Contractor company name: HH Smith


Structural Engineers: DP Squared
Landscape Architects: Xanthe Quayle Landscape Architects
Conservation Architect: Arcadis
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Simon Fenton Partnership
Environmental / M&E Engineers: Viridian Consulting


• RIBA Regional Award
• Regional/RSAW Client of the Year
• Regional Award Short List

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Phone: 0151 254 1394

Address: The Old Library, Green Ln, Old Swan, Liverpool L13 7EB, Merseyside, Northwest England, UK

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