Existing surroundings are ‘sad and municipal’

Cambridge University Library
The competition will link Cambridge with its traditional rival, Oxford

The shortlisted teams in the competition to redesign the entrance and surrounding landscape of the University of Cambridge Library have been announced. They are: London-based architectural practice Atomik Architecture; Beijing Tang Jianren Landscape Design Co; Liesbet Neesen; Marcus Green Horticultural Design; Moxon Architects; Pablo Fernández Sanz and G226 Arquitectura; Yi Kyu Chloe; and a joint entry from Simon Rubin and Blandine Touzeris.

The university launched the design competition last year ‘to elicit fresh and unexpected ideas for the environment, landscape and entrance sequence’ to the imposing and austere library building, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and completed in 1934.
The candidates were judged by a panel which included landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, architect Liza Fior, professor of classics Mary Beard and curator Hannah Barry.

Stuart-Smith describes the proposed redesign as much-needed, given the vast scale of the building and the ‘derisory landscape’ around it. ‘The University of Cambridge Library is such a great centre of learning and is so well used,’ he says, ‘yet its surroundings are sad and municipal – comprising largely a concrete car park’.

The shortlisted candidates will work with a Cambridge University academic to refine their proposals and consider the historic, economic and or biological significance of their project before the winning design is announced in September, writes Tim Clark in The Architect’s Journal. Cambridge University is also hoping to use the second stage of the competition to act as a springboard for further discussion and potential research innovation, he adds.
With the help of a selected expert, the short-listed entrants will be asked to ‘push their ideas further’ to identify areas of research innovation, to examine the role of Library within the evolution of the city and the University, and to explore new models for public engagement.

Entrants were given a list of project requirements which they had to consider including how to promote the public use of the space. They had to  demonstrate a clear understanding of the environmental and climatic factors affecting the site as well as to show a grasp of the location’s range of scales and its character.


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