Belfast Central library is one of the oldest public buildings in the city, its design was the result of an architectural competition won by WH Lynn in the 1890’s.
The ornate Grade B1 listed building is a wonderful example of the late Victorian architecture, with a doomed central reading room its centre piece. It suffers from unsympathetic major extensions to the rear and perhaps uniquely for a city library, the original building houses very limited book stock, where these are held within the extensions and have to be retrieved by the librarians!
The practice was retained by Libraries NI, under the Belfast Schools Partnership, to develop proposals for a comprehensive refurbishment and extension of the library, centred around replacing the unsightly extensions and developing an architectural solution that tied the listed building and new building together in a more sensitive and appropriate manner.
The library will be entered through a linking element between new and old (spilling out onto a new area of public realm), with universal access provided through to the refurbished original building and to the new element, the latter having an open and airy interior, with it’s the layout organised around the route up and through the building into a generous top lit main reading room.
The architecture is consciously restrained, with the elevational treatment organised and layered in a manner that reflects the listed building.