TCD: Ussher Library

  • Location: Trinity College Dublin
  • Architect: McCullough Mulvin / KMD Architecture
  • Completed: 2002

The new Ussher Library in Trinity College was initiated as an international architectural competition and was completed as a design collaboration between McCullough Mulvin Architects and KMD Architecture. It presented the opportunity to develop a landmark building in the tradition of Trinity College Dublin - a modern work that makes a coherent unit of Trinity’s library system and adds an exciting piece of architecture to the campus and the city. The new library sets up a concise relationship with Nassau Street, Fellows’  Square and College Park, providing a new square behind the Berkeley library and an appropriate forecourt at Nassau Street.

The building relates to the Berkeley library and the Museum Building, matching their proportions without mimicking either. It forms a functional unit with the Berkeley and the Lecky libraries with an intelligent reorganisation of their uses. The scheme is ‘green’ in intent, from the trees retained, the materials used and the passive energy systems incorporated.

Construction started in June 1999. The building links physically with two pre-existing major Library buildings and provides 750 additional reader spaces, all fully wired for information and communications technology.  There is room for an additional 360,000 printed volumes of monographs and research journals. 

The new building is 9,586 m2 and houses The Glucksman Conservation Department and Map Library.  Following the completion of the construction of the new building, a further 2,033 m2 of existing space was refurbished in the adjacent Berkeley and Lecky libraries. The new complex was brought into full use during 2002.

 The concept establishes three prismatic sculptural blocks on a podium set North-South across the site; the two longer blocks are connected by an atrium. The taller is closed and stone-clad and dedicated to book storage (a tower of books), the other, lower, more dynamically shaped in stone and glass- contains reading rooms with views over College Park; the third block is for a Book Conservation Laboratory.
Each block is served by a core at one end which anchors the plan;  each is designed as a solid planar element without advance or recession- the line of stone cladding is carried through into the atrium in timber panelling; the atrium glazing is perceived as a separate shard-like element, while the Conservation Block roof is an origami-like folded plane of glass and metal. The new building forms a functional unit with the existing Berkeley and Lecky libraries- all three are connected under podium level and the Berkeley Library has been retained as the main entrance to the whole complex- a new staircase descends from it to a new orientation space serving all three.

The new library had to fit into a very strong urban context,  standing on an edge condition between Trinity and Dublin; it keeps to the grid of the College buildings while recognising the line of Nassau Street. The building is like a gateway- three books forming open space between them which frame views and routes from the city into the College. By its shape and location on the site, the project establishes two strongly configured urban spaces at podium level– one against the rear of the Berkeley, open at the corners in the Trinity manner, with generous steps from the Park and Library square- the other between the new Library and the street- which will serve as a public and tourist access to the College.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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