Proposed new library

New University Library

New Bristol University Library – Hawthorns Hotel site – Woodland Road

The Society supports redevelopment of the Hawthorns and the construction of a new Arts and Social Sciences Library (the Library) but regrets that it cannot support the current scheme. The Library would be 55% larger than the library in the University’s 2006 Masterplan. The Library would occupy practically all the site and be taller than the Senate House, starting from a lower base.

In its Masterplan the University said that the Library would ‘Relate sympathetically to the scale of neighbouring proprieties.’ The Library’s massive walls would overbear and dominate neighbouring Elton and Woodland Roads. The Library’s design is not sufficiently outstanding to justify a departure from normal planning considerations of the setting and local character. The Society supports contemporary architecture that enhances the relationship between the new and the historic building styles of the conservation area. A strength of the design would be the interesting outlines created by the staggered building layers if the splayed blocks if they could be articulated into a more human scale. The weaknesses are the mass of masonry that faces Elton and Woodland Roads and the upper block that faces Royal Fort Gardens. The image (above) shows the very large window that is described as a beacon and would be lit at all hours. It would dominate the area.

The Library would have 2,000 study seats but the extra spaces cannot satisfy the demand that the University’s expansion creates. The University will need more property to provide more study space for more students before the completion of the new Library. The size of the building should determine the number of student study spaces; not be the other way about. For staff and students one of the joys of Bristol University is that it is in the city. A balance must be struck between the needs of the city and the University. This huge building would respond only to the University’s demands. The University has flexibility and a wide discretion to allocate student study places and library stock. The junction of the Tyndall Avenue with Woodland Road requires improvement if the University wishes to create an impressive ‘welcome area’.

John Frenkel

Full Civic Society response [PDF]


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