News archive 2001
Chancery Lane Library opens to students24 Sep 2001, PR 25/01
King’s College London begins the new academic year with a magnificent new library in Chancery Lane.
The building, formerly the Public Record Office, is one of the most outstanding examples of neo-Gothic architecture in the country, and is undergoing a two-year transformation (by architects Gaunt-Francis Associates and contractors Wallis Ltd) into a modern library and information centre. It is believed to be the largest new university library project in Britain since the Second World War.
The building, designed by Sir James Pennethorne, originally opened in 1856 as ‘the strong-box of the Empire’ and was used to store the nation’s records. It was the world’s first fireproof building, and built on the site of the Rolls Estate, which since mediaeval times had been home of Master of the Rolls. The building contains the former Rolls Chapel (which will be known as the Weston Room following a generous donation from the Weston Foundation) with its exquisite stained glass windows and a huge mosaic, discovered during the King’s refurbishment, as well as important Renaissance terracotta figures, including one by Torrigiano, who famously broke Michelangelo’s nose in a bar-room brawl. Within the Library is also the stunning Wohl Round Reading Room, based on that in the British Museum.
There are over 18,000 square metres of space in the building, with the capacity to house 1.4 million volumes, as well as the College’s Rare Books and Special Collection, most of which pre-dates the nineteenth century. The library contains the books and journals of four of the College’s ten schools - Humanities, Law, Physical Sciences & Engineering and Social Science & Public Policy.
The £25 million refurbishment of the library is a major challenge in how to transform a vast Victorian building into a modern library and information services centre. More than 48km of heavy slate shelving was removed during building work, and 1250 networked reader places were installed, without major structural alterations.
The Library will be officially opened in 2002.
King’s College Principal, Arthur Lucas, commented,
‘This library is a magnificent addition to the College’s estate and will rapidly become a leading centre of scholarship in the capital, particularly as the Special Collections have now been consolidated at one location in the Foyle Special Collections Library. It is cheering to know that one of London’s great buildings, known to only a select few for the past 150 years, will now be enjoyed by many thousands of people who will study here.’
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's is one of the two oldest and largest colleges of the University of London with some 12,200 undergraduate students and over 4,500 postgraduates in ten schools of study. The College is among the country's top four higher education institutions for the number of highest-rated subject-areas for research quality. It is in the top group of five universities for research earnings and has an annual turnover of £285 million and research income from grants and contracts in excess of £80 million (1999-2000).
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