Open House Festival

Lambeth Palace Library

library

Wright & Wright Architects, 2021

15 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7JT

A significant new redbrick addition to London’s civic architecture, Lambeth Palace Library is the first new building on the site for 185 years and hosts the Church of England’s archive.

Getting there

Tube

Lambeth North, Waterloo, Westminster

Train

Waterloo

Bus

77, C10

Additional travel info

Note that Google's pin for 15 Lambeth Palace Road appears at Lambeth Palace. Search 'Lambeth Palace Library' instead.

Access

Facilities

Accessibility notes

Fully accessible to wheelchair users. Lifts to all floors..

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Activities

Sat 14 Sep

Guided tour

10:00–11:00

Guided Tour

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Guided tour

11:30–12:30

Guided Tour

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Guided tour

13:30–14:30

Guided Tour

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Guided tour

14:45–15:45

Guided Tour

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Talk

16:00–17:00

Talk

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About

History

As a collection of buildings that represents the rooting, anchoring and formalising of the Church in England, through the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace is an exceptional architectural assemblage. Maintaining a presence on the same site since its foundation in the 13th century, it is one of the oldest and most historically significant sites in England. Accommodating the operation of the Archbishop’s household, reconciling domestic minutiae with wider affairs of politics and state, its buildings have profoundly shaped the trajectory and narrative of the Anglican church and the relationship of that church to the state and its power.

The Palace – continuously occupied for 800 years – and its residents have marked momentous events as well as celebrated the routines of daily life, worship, ministry and hospitality. Enacted down the years, these activities emphasise the temporal nature of human existence and how life – domestic, religious and political – is expressed through places and buildings.

Collection

The library that Archbishop Richard Bancroft, ‘a greate gatherer together of bookes’, bequeathed to his successors in 1610 was an amalgam of books and manuscripts which had found their way to Lambeth by accident as well as by design. At their core was the Archbishop’s polemical arsenal, his collections of the most up-to-date theological, Biblical, linguistic and historical scholarship, intended to provide him with ammunition for fighting his religious and political opponents and winning the argument for the hearts and minds of the English people. On the principle of ‘know your enemy’, this contained not only the publications of his allies, but also a wide selection from the learned presses of the European Counter-Reformation and from the clandestine presses of English recusants and Puritans. It was principally this material which Archbishop George Abbot, his immediate successor, had in mind when he hoped that the library would endure ‘to the service of God and his Church, of the Kings, and Common wealth of this Realme, and particularly of the Archbishops of Canterbury’.

Concept

The Library’s architectural character is determined by the imperative to protect and preserve its priceless contents. Located at the east end of the Archbishop’s garden, the Library contrives to minimise its impact on the existing mature landscape, its footprint occupying a mere 3% of the total area. Conceived as an ‘inhabited wall’, the Library hugs the edge of the site, facing on to Lambeth Palace Road. Because the Archbishop’s garden lies on the Thames flood plain, the archive stores could not be located underground. Instead, the brick-clad volumes containing the collection step up along the site perimeter, culminating in a new tower, with vistas extending across the River Thames to the Palace of Westminster. Adding to the array of palace towers, this crowning element is a dramatic urban eyrie, symbolically expressing the dialogue between church and state, subtly reframed for the present day. The top-storey space will host seminars and events, establishing the building as a new landmark, a literal and metaphorical beacon in the city.

Tectonics

Though the architectural language of the Library is explicitly of its time, it takes its cues from the historic milieu of its context and the elemental qualities of brick and stone, which characterise the Lambeth Palace site. Marking the entrance to the Palace, Morton’s Tower is a particularly distinctive patchwork of red brick, slowly weathered over time. For Wright & Wright, the choice of brick for the new Library was obvious. As well as harmonising with existing elements, brick offers variations in hue and texture, generating a visually rich palette which endures over time, subtly changing with age. Three kinds of specially handmade red bricks, some 300,000 in all, were employed to give the wall planes a pleasing textured appearance, resembling roughly woven cloth, rather like brick tweed.

Striving for innovation in the use of renewable sources of energy and passive strategies of environmental control, the building is designed to minimise energy use and inculcate a culture of low maintenance. Half the Library’s electricity requirements are generated by photovoltaic panels on the roof, while rainwater is sustainably channelled into the pond. The highly insulated masonry mass acts as a mechanism of natural heating and cooling, while the largely imperforate building form shields the Archbishop’s garden from the noise and pollution generated by the busy traffic on Lambeth Palace Road.

Online presence

lambethpalacelibrary.info

twitter.com/lampallib

en-gb.facebook.com/LambethPalaceLibrary

www.instagram.com/lampallib

Nearby

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