Gladstone Library
Image by Lauren Christina Holmes

RIBA competition for historic Flintshire library

Architect-led design teams are being invited to pitch for a project at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, an undertaking that will include a new building, along with redevelopment of the grade one-listed library and its surrounding grounds.

Expressions of interest are invited for the Gladstone’s Living Heritage Project up until 10 April, after which five firms are expected to progress to the design stage

The building is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library, in that it stands in tribute to its founder, the Victorian statesman William Ewart Gladstone; and its only residential library. Formerly known as St Deiniol’s, the building has 26 guest bedrooms, a 50-cover bistro and space for conferencing and events.

The project brief as laid out by RIBA states that the new building must be complementary to, but quite different from, the Victorian library building; a flexible, contemporary space will enable the expansion of an events programme including lectures and debates.

The aim is to create a visitor experience that will engage and inspire a broader range of audiences. It will be dedicated to three defining themes of Gladstone’s political career with “exceptional contemporary resonance”: human rights and genocide; the evolution of democracy; and religious tolerance. These themes will be the focus of a permanent exhibition and will form part of the library’s future work and mission.

RIBA adviser Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, said: ‘Gladstone’s library is a real national treasure, celebrating as it does one of our greatest Prime Ministers whose contribution to democracy, religious tolerance and human rights needs to be better understood.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for architecture to help facilitate this with the refurbishment of their grade one-listed building and a new extension that will house an exhibition space and cultural hub. It deserves to be a truly amazing project.”

A previous proposal for the library’s expansion, covering a new events space, enlarged restaurant, office facilities and more bedrooms, previously went out to tender in 2015. OMI emerged as winner from a field that included Donald Insall Associates, Austin-Smith:Lord, AOC, Purcell and Shepherd Epstein Hunter.

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The big question unanswered here is what the status of the incumbent architect (OMI) is and what has changed since the scheme was won in 2015? Until this is answered, I would certainly think twice about entering, despite it being a very interesting potential scheme.

By L_Ballard

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