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The London School of Economics and Political Science has the world’s largest and most important social sciences library. The redevelopment of the library building safeguards the future of the school’s four million books by improving environmental standards, and provides 500 extra student workplaces and new accommodation for the school’s Research Centre.
Built in 1914, the Lionel Robbins building was converted into a library in 1973. The renovation retains the basic building fabric and maintains the integrity of the façades, although the windows have been replaced.
A central atrium has been created by removing the façades of an internal lightwell and extending the floor-plates to encircle a cylindrical space. This increases the floor area, improves circulation and introduces daylight into the heart of the building. The atrium has been driven through to the basement and houses a helical ramp and a pair of glass lifts, which provide the main vertical circulation through the building.
A dome caps the atrium. It has a glazed section cut at an angle to admit north light, allowing maximum daylight penetration without problems of glare and solar gain. The dome also assists natural ventilation: air drawn in through windows at the perimeter of the library rises as it warms and escapes through vents in the dome’s glazing.
Book-shelves radiate from the atrium to create clearly defined passageways, and quiet study areas are positioned at the perimeter of each floor. A new fifth floor accommodates the Research Centre, which has its own entrance.