Lambeth Palace Library and Archive

Lambeth Palace Library and Archive

The new library and archive at Lambeth Palace houses one of the world’s most important religious literature collections.

The library and archive is the first new building on the site for almost two hundred years, and was welcomed by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as a ‘high-quality new design’ in the historic context. The Palace’s collection of books and manuscripts is second only to the Vatican’s in Europe, with some records stretching back to the ninth century. A driving motivation for the new building is to raise the collection above ground level and save it from the risk of flooding.

Working alongside Wright & Wright Architects, we provided MEP, acoustics, lighting and sustainability consultancy from project inception to completion, to bring the eight-storey, contemporary brick building in the grounds of the Grade I listed Palace to life. 

The building includes working, teaching and display spaces and serves as a focal point for scholars and students researching the history of the Church of England.

"This unique building serves two primary functions. Firstly, we wanted to work with the client and team to provide a modern and inspiring building for users to work and study. Good views, daylight, acoustics and fresh air were all key to this. Secondly, there was a clear need to provide a robust solution for the long-term preservation of the archive and library - a stable and ideal environment to house the collections." - Lidia Guerra, Engineer at Max Fordham

The client's brief was for a low-carbon building, so our design uses the building's structure and fabric as a climate modifier to avoid expensive, complex and energy intensive air conditioning solutions. A decision was made early on to opt for an all-electric building with no fossil fuel heating.
We recommended that the client add a conservation physicist to the team, to provide specialist advice and challenge our ideas with their experience. This led to the strongrooms evolving into a hybrid design whereby they are allowed to follow seasonal fluctuations within an extended range, and the plant provided additional temperature and humidity adjustments, as well as air circulation, if and when required. This also allowed a simple environmental control system to be implemented.

We produced an energy and carbon operational target and risk schedule to both demonstrate to the client what was to be achieved and how, and to allow monitoring the development of the design throughout the procurement, installation and operational phases of the project. This helped the client achieve the targeted BREEAM Rating of ‘Excellent’.

"Given that the primary focus was protecting the collections, all of which are now in archival-standard storage with fire suppression, the brief insisted on largely passive environmental control from a team designing with whole-life performance in mind. This has been achieved through the dense structure, which minimises fire risk and energy inputs, with almost half our energy needs now supplied by rooftop solar panels. The nature of the building also means that we have [...] created a quiet, ecologically rich enclave at the end of the grounds of Lambeth Palace in what is a noisy urban environment; all designed so that it only uses 3 per cent of the site footprint. The building itself successfully resolves the challenge of protecting our collections and, with its accessible entrance hall, gallery, and reading and seminar rooms, provides greater opportunities than ever before to reach out to as wide an audience as possible, enabling the collections to be used and accessed more than they have ever been in their more than 400-year history." - Declan Kelly, Director, Libraries and Archives, Lambeth Palace Library


Wright & Wright Architects






Church Commissioners for England

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The building seen from the Palace Garden
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View of the building from Lambeth Palace Road
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The naturally ventilated entrance hall with its cruciform chandelier and relaxing views on the pond and garden
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A state-of-the-art working environment has been provided for the Palace's conservationist team
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Exposed concrete shell and exposed services show in the archive repositories
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The reading room, where quantity and quality of daylight has been carefully studied