£26m storage facility for Oxford Bodleian Library completed with 245km of shelf space
Underneath the cobbled streets of the city of Oxford lies an intricate system of pathways and vaults connecting five library buildings within the city, and storing copies of almost every book published in the British Isles. In continuous use since the Middle Ages, the Bodleian has amassed a reputation to rival the University itself, its collection featuring such precious tomes as the original manuscripts of the 13th century Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s First Folio and the Ashmole Manuscripts.
The Bodleian receives around 1,000 new publications every day through Legal Deposit, adding to its already rich and varied literary collection. Whilst Oxford’s New Bodleian Library prepares for £78m of renovation work to the existing listed building, an 11,700 sq m book storage facility designed by Scott Brownrigg has just been completed in Swindon, some 45km away. Clad in bespoke four hour fire rated high performance insulated concrete sandwich panels, the 12m high 10,000 sq m main storage chamber has the capacity to hold 8 million volumes; however this mass of space will only suffice for a maximum of 20 years should the current levels of publication continue at the same pace.
Adjacent to the main storage volume is a single storey ancillary space, clad in the same concrete panels but with the addition of a cast-in graphic pattern designed as an abstract motif to the leaves of the tomes harboured within. The choice of timber also makes a vague reference to the use of natural materials in the production of the books, maps, manuscripts and newspapers that are stored in the Book Storage Facility.
During the design process, Scott Brownrigg worked in close collaboration with Oxford University Estates Directorate and specialist racking and logistics consultants Total Logistics to compose an immense facility that was both practical and architecturally expressive. Featuring 245km of shelving space, the main storage volume is divided into four fire-rated compartments with a bespoke BRE tested sprinkler system integrated into the shelving structure.
The first items from the Bodleian’s book stacks in Oxford will be transferred to the Swindon Book Storage Facility at the beginning of November.