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New home for Lambeth Palace’s priceless historic library planned

Posted on: December 10, 2015 1:10 PM
The Lambeth Palace Library contains historic manuscripts and documents dating back to the ninth century
Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace

[ACNS] Proposals to construct a new library at Lambeth Palace are being drawn up. The Church Commissioners for England have appointed husband and wife architects Claire and Sandy Wright to draw up plans for a new library to house one of the world’s most important collections of historic religious documents and artwork, second only to the Vatican in size and importance.

The couple’s firm, Wright and Wright, will work with the Commissioners to develop and cost their proposals over the next few months. They were chosen from a long list of 40 architects’ practices and a shortlist of 10 who were asked to submit bids.

“This wasn’t a design competition – it was more about picking the architects we felt most confident in to deliver the vision,” the Commissioners’ director of libraries, archives and information services, Declan Kelly, said. “There is a lot of work between us and the architect over the next year to produce a design that will then go back to the board of trustees for final approval.”

The Lambeth Palace Library currently holds around 200,000 printed books, with more than 30,000 from before 1700, more than 5,000 manuscripts, 600 of which are medieval, and records of past Archbishops of Canterbury. Its earliest records date from the ninth century.

Reports say that the new Library will be the first building constructed in the grounds of Lambeth Palace in 180 years. In the year 2000 a courtyard was glazed to create The Atrium. Linking the main palace building to the chapel, this area is now used for receptions and informal gatherings.

The library’s collection is currently spread over numerous buildings and it is difficult to maintain the necessary temperature and humidity conditions to ensure their preservation. The new building will enable the librarians and custodians to preserve the priceless collection of historic documents in the right conditions.

It will be designed as a “zero carbon building” that will “fit in with the historic landscape which includes some grade I listed buildings,” Kelly said. To ensure that the building relates well with the Lambeth Palace gardens, Wright and Wright have teamed up with Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winner Dan Pearson Studio as they develop their plans.

“We look forward to working with the Church of England to develop a dynamic design to house a historic collection at Lambeth Palace so that it can be preserved and viewed by more people in the future,” Wright & Wright Architects’ partner Clare Wright said.