St John’s College, Oxford


"The Library & Study Centre will be an inspiring space for students and scholars now and for centuries to come - a place to think, read, reflect and write, and to enjoy.

This beautiful addition to the fabric of St John's will double the current number of seats available for readers and double the present shelving space for the collections. It will bring the old and new parts of the College together physically and once again position the library facilities at the heart of St John's."

Professor Maggie Snowling CBE


Very often a building solution is found by carefully examining what exists, as though by gently brushing away the sand, what was there all the time, is revealed. The beautiful exterior of the 17th Century Canterbury Quadrangle exudes a sense of tranquility that belies the struggles there have been to accommodate the ever growing and evolving library inside. A solution had been sought for decades but either detrimentally affected Canterbury Quadrangle or was too apologetic. We found a hidden passage, a consequence of setting out alterations four centuries earlier that resolved the problem. It offered a new discreet entrance, just at the climactic point in the baroque ensemble that led to a space in the President’s Garden, into which a new building neatly fits but cannot be seen in relation to the iconic historic views. The solution was well received by the client, planners and Historic England.

The new building is a route and a destination. In the foyer space that connects old and new we created a reinterpretation of the traditional symbolic library window.  By stepping slabs of the carved stone external wall out into a shallow pond, we aimed to create an ever changing play of light, shadow and movement.

Every effort was made to minimize the building’s carbon footprint throughout, from perfectly attuned, passively controlled archives to reading rooms with a cross breeze. Here students can sit at desks embedded in the treetops or lie back in comfort and contemplate the stars.