Bodleian Libraries

The past welcomes the present; creating a 21st-century research library

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s, the Grade II-listed Bodleian Libraries got a radical makeover during Oxford University’s three year refurbishment project.

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Bodleian Libraries Project summary

Client

Estates Services, University of Oxford

Key partners

Wilkinson Eyre Architects

Services provided

Contracting, Construction

Sectors

Arts and culture, Education, Research and biopharmaceuticals

Locations

UK and Europe, UK - London and south-east England

Project timeline

Start date
June 2011
End date
March 2015
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Project story

The Weston Library, part of the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, opened to the public in 2015 and is now a 21st-century research library with scholarship, research, digitisation and conservation taking place under one roof.

We successfully delivered the £60m renovation without compromising the historic character of the building, demolishing and reconstructing the 11 storey core while keeping the listed facade intact.

Key to our project's success was the safeguarding of the collections by creating a temperature and humidity controlled environment. This technically complex project was delivered on a constrained site, with environmental controls and protection of the structure paramount.

The library has proved hugely popular with everyone from students, to local residents and tourists alike.

Project stats

140 tonnes of salvaged stone reused in the new facades
81km of new book shelving introduced into the building to house the library collections
11 storey core was reconstructed while keeping the listed façade intact

Points of note

Challenging, historical setting

The challenging restoration of the Grade II-listed Bodleian Libraries was compounded by £8m of additional works and delivered in the heart of a major recession - we found £4m savings through value engineering to get the project off the ground.

Developing solutions in partnership

This is just one of the facilities we have delivered for the University of Oxford. As a delivery partner we have developed solutions for many years to challenges presented by diverse stakeholders, budgetary pressures and resource constraints.

Temperature and humidity requirements

These invaluable books and collections are of national and historical importance, and storing them correctly was crucial. The new building now houses 81km of brand new book racking with the correct temperate conditions and fire protection.

Award winning

The project has won numerous awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) since completion, including its National Award 2016, South Award 2016 and South Building of the Year. It was also a finalist in the Stirling Prize 2016.

Modernising facilities

To ensure the safe and secure storage of the collection we removed the 11 storey central core of the book stack, and constructed a new central basement stack, entrance hall and cantilevered high level central stack in its place.

Student programme

Our Foundation partnered with the Construction Youth Trust and Bodleian Library to collaborate on a programme called 'Budding Brunels', which aimed to inform and inspire young students from disadvantaged backgrounds and teach them about higher education and the construction career options.

“We’re very proud of the work we carried out to transform the Weston Library, and it’s a tribute to the team that this work was been recognised by HRH the Duke of Cambridge during his visit.”

“Your dedication, skill, energy and team work has enabled us to meet our deadlines, and to design and deliver a library that reflects the best of the Bodleian’s past and the promise of a future that will be equally rich and distinguished.”