Wright & Wright reveal Scott's Magdalen library refurb

Tim Clark

Source: Dennis Gilbert

Practice unveils changes to bring Oxford University college’s library into 21st century

Wright & Wright architects has unveiled the practice’s transformation of the library at Oxford University’s Magdalen College. 

The £10.5 million project has seen the Grade II-listed library gain additional meeting areas, storage and staff facilities as well as space for over 3,200 linear metres of books.

Designed as a single hall school by JC Buckler in 1851, the building was converted into a library in 1930 by Giles Gilbert Scott. Before the current redesign, it provided just 48 reading places for a student population of 600, and was considered no longer fit for purpose.

The new library can accommodate up to 120 readers in various study settings in an intervention described by Wright & Wright as “both contemporary and respectful of the historic architecture”.

The new design replaces floor levels introduced by Giles Gilbert Scott to once again reveal the full height and expansive space of the existing Library hall and its windows. Within this cathedral-like space, the architects have added an oak-clad, steel-framed intervention conceived as a giant piece of freestanding furniture. 

Architect Clare Wright, says: “The reworking of Magdalen College Library and the quadrangle in which it sits was a delightfully challenging exercise which Sandy Wright, Stephen Smith and I relished working on together.

“We feel deeply privileged to have worked for such a fantastic client body. They were immensely receptive to architectural ideas as well as those for resolving practical difficulties and encouraged us to strive for the very best.”

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