Wilkinson Eyre turns the page on Oxford’s Weston Library

Wilkinson Eyre turns the page on Oxford’s Weston Library

Oxford University’s Grade II-listed New Bodleian library has just reopened after a three-year and £80m refurbishment, complete with a new name, restored and revamped interiors, state-of-the-art facilities and a far more welcoming exterior.

Henceforth known as The Weston library, the building was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built in the late 1930s. Despite its enviable location on one of Oxford’s main thoroughfares, opposite Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Clarendon Building and Christopher Wren’s Grade I-listed Sheldonian Theatre, the library had always appeared hermetic and closed-off.

’As a building it turned away from Broad Street and didn’t engage with the public. It seemed to suggest you should keep out,’ says Jim Eyre, a director at Wilkinson Eyre, the London-based practice responsible for the upgrade. Though consistent with its original use as a depository for books, he concedes, the university had long outgrown it. What’s more, its outdated archiving system lacked fire protection and temperature and humidity controls, putting its valuable collections at risk. Upgrading book storage is very difficult to fund, explains Eyre. ’The brief that eventually emerged was that we needed to upgrade and reduce the book storage and turn the building into a library for special collections.’

Wilkinson Eyre’s key idea, and the one that probably tipped the balance at competition stage, was opening up the building on Broad Street and creating an inviting public entrance and covered arcade with steps and an inclined surface for step-free access. The inside has been radically and completely revitalised too. The architects gutted and then rebuilt the centre of the building to give it a new heart in the form of Blackwell Hall, a 13.5m high space with views in from many of the library’s internal corridors and narrow linear roof lights that echo ’the long thin repeated vertical windows of many of Gilbert Scott’s buildings.’

The Hall contains a café and information desk, as well as a dramatic 15th Century gateway that used to be at the V&A. Elsewhere the library houses a new lecture theatre, exhibition galleries, seminar rooms and a brand new roof-level reading room with views of the city’s famed spires that were previously obscured by an uninspiring 1960s extension (that has also been removed). ’This building is pretty much unique for the university,’ says Eyre. ’Most of its buildings aren’t ones that you can just wander into.’

Sign up for the Amateur Photographer Newsletter

Sign up for the Motorboat and Yachting Newsletter

Sign up for the Cycling Weekly Newsletter

Sign up for the Amateur Gardening Newsletter

Sign up for the Country Life Newslettter

Sign up for the Decanter Asia DAWA Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter China Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter Daily Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter Events newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter World Wine Awards DWWA Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter Weekend Newsletter

Sign up for the Golf Monthly Newsletter

Sign up for the Horse & Hound Newsletter List

Sign up for the Ideal Home newsletter

Sign up for the Livingetc Newsletter

Sign up for the Mountain Bike Rider Newsletter

Sign up for the Marie Claire Daily

Sign up for the Magazines Direct Newsletter

Sign up for the Celebs Now Newsletter

Sign up for the Practical Boat Owner Newsletter

Sign up for the Sporting Gun Newsletter

Sign up for the Uncut Newsletter

Sign up for the Woman & Home Newsletter

Sign up for the Womans Weekly Brand Comms

Sign up for the Woman Newsletter

Wallpaper* Newsletter

Sign up for the World Soccer Newsletter

Sign up for the What's On TV Newsletter

Sign up for the Yachting Monthly Newsletter

Sign up for the ybwcom newsletter

Sign up for the ybwcom boats for sale Newsletter

Sign up for the Equo Organiser Newsletter

Sign up for the Equo Rider Newsletter

Sign up for the The Field Newsletter

Sign up for the Goodtoknow Generic Newsletter

Sign up for the Goodtoknow Recipes Newsletter

Sign up for the Life Death Prizes Newsletter

Sign up for the Rugby World Newsletter

Sign up for the Shooting Gazette Newsletter

Sign up for the Shooting Times Newsletter

Sign up for the ShootingUk Newsletter

Sign up for the Trusted Reviews Newsletter

Sign up for the Womans Own Newsletter

Sign up for the NME Daily Newsletter Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter Master Events Newsletter

Sign up for the Goodtoknow BISS Newsletter

Sign up for the Yachting World Newsletter

Sign up for the Decanter Shanghai Events Newsletter

© TI Media Limited. Wallpaper* is part of TI Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.