Ruskin Library Lancaster University Project info

Ruskin Library

Lancaster University

This building for Lancaster University houses the Whitehouse Collection of works of art and writings by John Ruskin.  Set at the entrance to the University campus, the library is a symbolic gateway to the University. It forms an escarpment at the west boundary of the University, and offers a dramatic view towards the sea.

The Ruskin Library is one of the most moving buildings of the second half of the century

Peter Davey, Architectural Review    

The building accommodates archive storage (known as the “treasury”), together with a reading room, curatorial offices and public gallery spaces. A double height entrance gives access to the gallery spaces, which are connected through the treasury by a glass bridge. Metaphor and allusion were used in the planning and detail design, with the sequence of spaces being deliberately church-like; the entrance, treasury and reading room respectively represent the narthex, choir and sanctuary of a church. The linear arrangement of the building meets the need for security, with the reading room remote from the entrance and only accessible through secure doors controlled by the curatorial staff.

I give the Ruskin Library
three stars without hesitation

Edward Cullinan

The construction of the treasury as a ‘building within a building’ physically isolates the collection, creating the stable atmosphere and environment necessary for conservation of the archive without the need for air conditioning. The library’s massive construction and the inclusion of a basement provide security and environmental inertia to the reading room, the foyer and public galleries above.

  • Client
    Lancaster University
  • Awards
    RIBA Award, 1999
    Civic Trust Award, 1999
    Design Council Millennium Product, 1999
    Lancaster Design Award, 1998
    RFAC/BSkyB University Building of the Year, 1998
    Independent on Sunday Building of the Year, 1996
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Photos: Peter Durant