Peckham Library won Britain's most celebrated architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in November 2000.
The brief called for a building of architectural merit which would bring prestige to the borough and engender a sense of ownership and pride for the building by local people. Will Alsop created a building of unique appearance which satisfied both criteria, comprising innovatory solutions to design problems, creating working, archive and meeting spaces of genuine delight and stimulating appearance.
Suspending the main reading room on a cantilevered plane allowed the creation of a new public space below the soffit. Within this room, 'pods' contain meeting rooms and independent collections, with workstations clustered below.
The brief included a children's library and a range of adult learning facilities. The centre pod opens to the clerestory, allowing daylight to enter the main space while the 'beret' above affords shade. The library was conceived with sustainability in mind and has natural lighting and ventilation systems which significantly diminish the building's energy requirements.
The Peckham Library and Media Centre is located adjacent to the Town Square in Peckham, London. The building has been built by Southwark Borough Council to provide a centre for arts and technology.
Adams Kara Taylor worked with Alsop Architects on the design of this project which commenced at the end of 1995 with a budget of £ 4.5 million. The shape and style of the building and the materials used on the external elevations and internal areas produced a design which reflects the importance of the centre to the residents of Southwark. A close working relationship with the Client and local community was necessary to ensure that not only the architectural design of the building was a success but also the project fulfilled the needs and aspirations of the surrounding population and visitors to Peckham.
A variety of different materials were adopted for the primary structure, reinforced concrete for the accommodation block, steel for the longspan reading room structure and sloping external columns and timber for the suspended ‘pods’. The project was completed in the summer of 1999.
Peckham Library opened to the public on 8 March 2000, with an official opening by the Rt Hon Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport on 15 May 2000.
The library was designed by Will Alsop from Alsop & Stormer and it received the 2000 Stirling Award for architectural innovation. It also won the Civic Trust Award (April 2002) for excellence in public architecture, along with the London Eye and Tate Modern. The vivid copper exterior also won it the 2001 Copper Cladding Award.
With nearly half a million visitors a year, it is the busiest of Southwark's lending libraries and issued over 245,000 items in 2010/11.
The library was designed to be striking, to make people curious about what lies inside, and to challenge the traditional view of libraries as staid and serious environments.
The construction cost of the library was £5 million, including £1.25 million from the Single Regeneration Budget programme. This programme, to facilitate the regeneration of Peckham also covered the creation of new low-rise housing (a mixture of owner-occupied and social housing), Peckham Pulse healthy living centre, Peckham Square and Peckham Arch.