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Clapton Library, east London

Historic Hackney Building, Northwold Road, UK – design by Shepheard Epstein Hunter, Architects

24 Feb 2010

Clapton Library Hackney

Design: Shepheard Epstein Hunter


Shepheard Epstein Hunter architect’s £3 million transformation of Clapton Library for the London Borough of Hackney opened to the public this week.

Shepheard Epstein Hunter’s design extends and transforms the 96 year old Grade II listed building, originally opened just before the First World War in January 1914.

The library now provides more space, better disabled access, new areas for private study and young people, meeting facilities available for community use, and quiet reading areas.

Despite the constraints of Grade II listing, the transformation achieves a significant
level of sustainability, incorporating:

• Rain water harvesting
• Solar water heating
• Solar powered passive ventilation using windcatchers and automatically opening windows
• Optimum use of daylight
• Creative recycling of existing structures
• Energy efficient lighting and heating systems

The original 1914 building was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper, who was knighted in 1923 and won the Gold Medal for Architecture in 1931. It was funded by Scottish born steel magnate millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and was born out of the Free Library movement which sought to bring reading facilities to the general public.

Shepheard Epstein Hunter’s scheme removes mid 20C suspended ceilings to reveal the original barrel vaults and glazed toplit ceilings of Cooper’s design. It retains the original Battery Room (not part of the original Library but used when public electricity infrastructure was first installed in Hackney).

The Battery Room had been scheduled for demolition under a previous consented scheme but Shepheard Epstein Hunter decided to retain and transform it to the form the new main entrance of the Library. The original void between Coopers’ ground floor and first floor reading rooms,
which allowed air to circulate and daylight to filter through to the ground floor, had been concreted in the 1970’s.

Shepheard Epstein Hunter’s design opens up this void, fills it partly with a new glass floor, and partly with grilles which allow the circulation of air as part of the passive ventilation system.
A two storey-zinc-clad extension with lift is added at the back of the site, on top of the retained Battery Room, complementing the original two storey building, with a grand two-story window giving views to the street from meeting rooms and offices. An elliptical ‘daylight funnel’ is cut into the Battery Room roof to provide daylight at the heart of the new reception area, and views through between Reception and new two-storey extension. An atrium allows views from Reception to the first floor reading room.

Steven Pidwill, Director of Shepheard Epstein Hunter, said:
‘Cooper’s original building was an elegant and beautifully simple building which (as is often the case) had been covered up by mundane suspended ceilings and careless partitioning during its middle age. ‘Part of our job has been to uncover the delightful original curved and glazed ceilings and restore the simplicity of circulation and servicing which Cooper had originally conceived.

‘The Battery Room – which a previous scheme would have demolished – is actually a fantastic early 20th C industrial room with a great scale – retaining it has allowed us to unlock the potential of the original building and add about 50% more space without a negative impact on the site.’ ‘We were also very pleased to be able to work with the Library team in the specification of furniture, shelving, graphics and signage, which has made a huge difference to the finished result.’

The Library was officially opened on Monday 22 February this week by Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, with entertainment by poet and musician John Hegley.

Mayor Pipe said:
‘The Council were determined that this 100 year old library should be an excellent resource for residents so have worked with the architects to create a design that offers users more space, better access, an improved stock range and facilities fit for the 21st century, while remaining sympathetic to the building’s classic design’

Location: Northwold Road, Clapton E5

Clapton Library Hackney information from Shepheard Epstein Hunter

Location: Clapton Library Hackney, London, England, UK

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Other works by Shepheard Epstein Hunter include the University of Liverpool Sydney Jones Library, the extension to Central Library at the University of East Anglia, and the new Carnegie Library in Enfield.

Other works by Sir Edwin Cooper include St Marylebone Town Hall (1911) and the National Provincial Bank headquarters in Poultry, London (1929).

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