Page 1

Course: BUIL1166 - Introduction to Building Environments and Construction Course Leader: Dr Shaun Murray Student: Mihaela Sologon Building Name: Peckham

Library Location: 122 Peckham Hill St, London SE15 5JR, United Kingdom Occupancy Name: Peckham Library & Media Centre Function: Library Owner: Southwark Council Architect: Will Alsop from Alsop & Stormer MEP Engineers: Structural Engineers: General Contractors: Electrical Contractors: Opened: 8

March 2000 Awards: Stirling Award (2000), Copper Cladding Award (2001), Civic Trust Award (2002) Cost: ÂŁ5 million, including ÂŁ1.25 million from the Single Regeneration Budget programme


The map on the right hand side of the page represents my foot path journey, starting at Peckham Rye station, then walking on the High Street and ultimately reaching Peckham Library. Officially opened to the public on 8 March 2000, Peckham Library was designed by Will Alsop from Alsop & Stormer with the aim of regenerating the area and also created new low-rise housing (a mixture of own-occupied and social housing) alongside the Library project. The public library and the media centre ‘brings a breadth of novelty and dynamism in the district’ and because Alsop’s decision to closely cooperate with the members of the local community, the library’s design and function ticks off all the requirements brought forward by the community.

History of Peckham The name means “the place of the river Peck” - a small steam that runs through the district. Peckham was a hamlet of the parish of Camberwell, situated about a mile to Camberwell’s east on the road to New Cross, but by 1890s it started to become a London suburb. Today it has a strong sense of local identity because Rye Lane was one of the most important shopping streets in South London, and also the reputation as one of the most deprived constituency in the country. Some people might fear it because of the high levels of crime and gang violence.

The plan above is used to plot the numbers of the different photographs taken across the building to highlight its surroundings in order to give the reader a visual introduction of the environment and atmosphere. The photographs are displayed on the following two pages.


1 ‘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.’ Peckham Library won several awards, most notable the Stirling Award (2000) for architectural innovation and the Civic Trust Award (2002) for excellence in public architecture, along with inspiring places such as the London Eye and Tate Modern.


‘While it’s often overlooked as a creative destination, Peckham is a vibrant hub at the cutting-edge of contemporary art.’ The multi-coloured mosaic sphere in front of the library captured my attention instantly. I assume that the colors applied on the sphere are in direct correlation with the coloured back windows of the building.



Its unusual design, the “L” turned at 90 degrees gives the impression of instability emphasized by a row of thin, tubular columns that fall on the ground at different levels to support the cantilever and further define the outdoor space.


Peckham High Street has a vibrant atmosphere. I noticed the modesty of the area highlighted by the alligned shops. Most of them are ‘corner shops’ or ‘boutiques’ from where people can buy affordable fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and fish.

The stairs play an important role in the building because they offer mobility through the levels. They are positioned next by the north-facing windows, allowing the user to admire a colored view of London, through the yellow glazed glass. Usually the stairs are the least lightened areas in the building, but Alsop managed to infuse the users a welcoming feel once entering the library.


The library was opened with the aim to regenerate the area and eventually to improve its deprived status. I consider this a fantastic idea that promotes the benefits of education. Moreover, after an intensive reading day, the users are encouraged to engage with the open space in front of the builind and compete into a game of ping-pong. Such a nice way to relax your brain.

01. AIR Air is one of the most influential aspects of a building because it has a direct influence on the users. For example, in poor ventilated spaces the fresh air fails to circulate around and this might cause a discomfort for the user which may result in breathing dificulties or sweating. The diagrams show how the air enters and leaves the building in order to maintain a constant temperature. The fresh air is represented by the blue arrows that enters the building by the windows - the windows at the back are ocassionaly opened to allow the air to flow along the building. The manager of the library declared that there is no air-conditioning inside the building and the flow of fresh air is maintained by the opened windows. I consider this to be an irresponsible approace in order to maintain the building ventilated because this might result in streams which will directly affect the sensitive users. However, I focued on the main floor at level four. The different intensity of the red shading shows the distribution of the warm air in the space. For example, the area near by the windows is cooler, whilst the central area and the area by the entrance are warmer. This is because the users preffer to use the central desks or the opened middle blob (the side blobs were closed at the time I visited the library). During my visit (beginning of October), the building was properly ventilated, even without the use of air-conditioning, and I couldn’t feel any discomfort. I pressume that the atmosphere will be totally changed by the time of winter and the clash between the warm air inside and the cold air outside will cause a condensation.

02. LIGHT I consider the use of light one of the most important aspects that defines a building, especially a library. The tiny front windows do not allow the natural light to enter the whole space and this resulted in the use of artificial light. The footlights are constantly turned on during daytime which represents a major waste of energy. The following diagrams show how the natural light enters the library at the level four. Because the architect decided to have tiny front windows, only the users who sit on the desks by the windows will benefit from natural light. The rest of the library is artificially lightened and I personally consider this a failure, because the repetitive exposion to artificial light would cause severe affection to the eye sight. However, the central blob is accessible to the public and it has a window above it. On the other hand side, I consider this a brilliant idea because the architect managed to give the user direct natural light, whilst allowing it to observe the clouds whilst studying. The traditional libraries have big windows on the side which allow the natural light to enter the space, but through his design, Alsop introduced a new concept of how the roof windows might be used to lighten the working space. I wish he would have used this idea more into the library in order to promote a healthier approach of the design and the use of the building.

These diagrams show how the natural light enters the building and the shadows it creates along the space.

03. GROUND There are 3 key components which make Peckham Library a distinctive piece of contemporary architecture. These components are:

GLASS - both fluorescent and plain, used 3. for windows and doors in order to make the place more inviting and once inside, the viewer is encouraged to explore the horizon through different colors of the city around – green, orange, red, blue, hooker green, black and clear. On the other hand, the windows facing south are framing the sky above the users collecting all the sunlight during the day and ultimately inviting them to forget the heavy mood of Peckham.

What is the Earth? Earth is the third planet from the Sun, also the largest of the Solar System’s four terrestrial planets. Its radius is 6,371 km, ages approximately 4 billion years, weights 5.972E24 kg, its population being over 7 billion people living on a surface area of 510,072,000 km². Earth has been called the “Goldilocks planet.” In the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a little girl named Goldilocks liked everything just right. Her porridge couldn’t be too hot or too cold. And her bed couldn’t be too hard or too soft. On Earth, everything is just right for life to exist. It’s warm, but not too warm. And it has water, but not too much water. (NASA)

THE COPPER COVERING - Alsop’s 1. design required a material that would be cheerful but interesting therefore TECU®-Patina Germany supplied the green horizontal sheet cladding which has a very distinctive appearance. By using sheet material, Alsop was able to have the material cut in to linear forms which produce ‘seams’. These ‘seams’ run down the façade’s which draws attention to the slanted steel supports.

METAL - used for the casings and the 2. supporting columns on the Plaza. The pillars also act as an obstacle in order to protect the building; their inclined position automatically captures the viewer’s attention. The front façade of the library constitutes a rampart against violence and degradation coming from the district. Moreover, the concrete table-tennis attracts the citizens for a game.


The diagram on the left hand side is a study of how the water is used in the building. The fresh water is distributed from two main boilers (numbered 1 and 2) and is delivered to the toilet rooms in order to be used for washing or flushing. Considering the function of the building - library - there is no need for distributing the water to any places with the expect of the toilets. This is a logical preventive issue in order to protect the books, articles, newspapers, DVDs and the technology inside the library. The diagram on the right hand side, on the next page, is a proposal for collecting the rain water by the drainage system and store in into a tank collector into the ground. This water will be used for flushing the toilets in order to promote the sustainable aspect of the building.

05. ENERGy

“The library is a beacon that pulls people towards it” (Sandra Agard - Development Officer) A natural source of energy for the Peckham Library are the people themselves. Over the past 13 years, the library was buzzing with people of all ages. Library membership at Peckham is above the borough average in all age groups, with three times as many 15 to 17-year-olds. Moreover, the building is frequently adapted to meet the high demand for tables and as a result, the second floor can be used as overflow study space during the busy hours. The diagram on the left hand side is a study of thermal energy, which is directly linked to the people’s activity inside the library. The most used area is highlighted in a warm color, whilst the cool color is used to emphasize the gap between the spaces - using windows as a delimitation.

06. recycle

If he was to design the library today, McCarthy would propose vegetation as part of the engineering solution. He sees this as the way forward for today’s cities, and thinks Peckham Library would be an ideal venue to introduce affordable high-intensity urban farming: shrimp, fish, algae for cosmetics, food processing and fresh vegetables all year round. ‘Because of the fantastic success of the building, the plants would thrive on all that CO2. Plants should cohabit this success, and library users would come away with food and knowledge of urban farming.

THE LOW CARBON ZONE Peckham Library is one of the buildings located in the Low Carbon Zone, which received one to one advice on how to reduce energy consumption and costs. The service included an energy audit; follow up advice and installation of measures such as low energy lighting, energy monitors and timers. Local community groups received funding to deliver projects that would reduce CO2 emissions and promote sustainable behavior in the zone, groups that delivered projects included the LONDON WILDLIFE TRUST (pupils at Peckham Park Primary School learnt about food miles, where our food comes from, took part in a zero waste lunch challenge, and built their own vegetable garden in the school playground) and TRANSITION TOWN PECKHAM (delivered the ‘Better Energy for All’ project for residents in the zone, which consisted of energy advice and the installation of a range of energy and water saving measures).

07. Synthesis

08. conclusion

Proposal for insulation and roofing felt Peckham Library is one of the most striking libraries built in the 20th century. It’s unique design makes the viewer question all the engineering standards, whilst acting as a magnet attracting tousands of visitors each year since built.

1. Moist air enters the space. 2. Insulation over floor creates cold ceiling (outside - beneath). 3. Moist air condenses on roofing felt. 4. Reduced ventilation —> cold contact surface from ceiling (outside - above). 5. Insulation became prone to prolonged dampness increasing the risk of decay. 6. Roof felt significantly reduces ventilation of roof space.

I consider it an exceptional project that succeeded into promoting and regenerating the area. The outside of the building makes use of the playful shapes and bright colors to attract the community, whilst the inside offers a warm welcoming to users of any age. Alsop created both a physical and spiritual atmosphere of the space through his unique design in order to promote the benefits of education into a deprived area. Close cooperation with the community, understanding of their needs and expectations allowed Will Alsop to give them back an intelectual, social and active hub to be proud of and to enjoy.

references article peckham-library-and-media-centre

Buil1166 Workbook (first draft)  

Peckham Library - Case Study