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Selwyn College Library and Auditorium, Cambridge

By chris
Selwyn college library

Described by the college as a ‘once in a generation project’, the constructionof the Bartlam library and Quarry Whitehouse Auditorium marks the completion of the Ann’s Court development at Selwyn college, started in the 1990’s. Occupying the prominent Grange Road where it turns into West Road, the building creates a new landmark building in the fabric of the university and a focal point for the students of Selwyn College.

Built in hardy Coleford brick and limestone to unite with the earlier residential phases, the new building departs from the modest rhythm of those blocks in an exuberant display of classical form and styling.

From a rusticated stone base, the main part of the building rises as one volume in thick, Flemish bond brick over two tall stories before a final attic / roof storey of expressive gable ends, an overall height of more than 16m. The brickwork is a full brick thick allowing the walls to be built entirely in ground bearing brick, avoiding obvious movement joints and giving an air of substance. Windows, gables and other features are expressed in dressed stone.

On the courtyard side, brick arcade, featuring traditional built arches, addresses the courtyard and provides cover to access the entrance to the library via a tower accommodating a stair and lift. This tower, also predominantly in massive brickwork, reaches even higher than the main volume – at high level the brickwork works its way around clock faces before giving way to a stone capping providing a base for a grand ‘lantern’.

The building has enhanced sustainability aims – by constructing in a long lasting and resilient brick and in low carbon, lime mortar, the brickwork plays its part in this.

Such a design in such a prominent position required a high degree of collaboration between designers, contractors and sub-contractors in both the planning and execution and the highest level of craftsmanship in realising the architect’s vision. The result is a flawless addition to modern classical architecture and a striking addition to the university estate.

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