A new two-story library for St. Mary’s Calne School, an independent day and boarding academy established in 1873 in Calne, Wiltshire, will be built at the center of the institution’s 25-acre site. Through a collaborative design process that included the headmistress, staff, librarians, and students, the team created this “heart” of the campus within a cluster of original shared facilities.
From the western side along the main road that runs through the campus, the 660-square-meter edifice will appear as a simple, rectangular pavilion clad in timber and topped with an articulated roof of timber and glass. But upon entering, visitors will be welcomed by a dynamic interior. Each story has a distinct purpose and specified zones. While the ground floor is meant to be lively, aimed at group projects with direct access to an orchard adjacent to the library, the upper level is designed for more formal focused, individual studying.
Brick “bookends,” or separate ancillary forms along the northern and southern areas of the building’s perimeter, will provide storage, stair access, small project rooms, and warehouse control systems. To optimize the spaces available for learning and reading, the designers dismissed conventional book racks within the floors and instead put books, study booths, display zones, and shelving within the interior walls.
The glazed façade at the back will face northeast to limit direct sunlight while illuminating the newly formed passage from the library to the new gardens and orchard. Taking direct inspiration from the fruit trees, several structural support beams connect to the undulating interior-side of the roof to give the impression of a tree’s branches. Clerestory glazing enables the appearance of a floating roof and double height curtainwalls fill the spaces with daylight from the top. A metal detail is integrated throughout the façade to continue the vertical elements of the trees.
The scale and detail of the building is sympathetic to the architecture of the entire school in its elevations but deliberately modern in its composition. The eventual effect will be the completion of the western edge of the grounds’ central greenspace and an academic haven for its students.