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The Word: Library in South Shields

Desco was appointed to deliver the M&E services design, as part of the client’s architect-led team, for this new town centre development to provide an award winning new library and digital media hub in South Shields.

The aim of the project was to create an iconic building so to provide a central hub for the town, acting as a catalyst for the overall South Shields regeneration plan — drawing people into the town centre and giving it a new lease of life.

The solution is a circular-shaped, three storey building, located in South Shields Market Place, which, as well as the town library, houses a new hub for creative writing with interactive exhibition space, digital media space with a range of facilities like a computer gaming area, a FabLab with 3D printers and vinyl and laser cutters, digitised archives, meeting rooms, a children’s storytelling area, OpenZone IT suite, café and a rooftop restaurant providing stunning views over the river.

The purity and strength of a circular building emerged from all of the influences and requirements set out by the urban grain, and the social and community ambitions. A large central atrium gives visual clarity to the scheme, allowing a grand gesture of civic quality to link all of the internal activities. This is very much an open and engaging plan, modern in its expression. It is not a temple for silence, but a place for sharing knowledge.

The Word provides a rich array of volumes over four floors, ranging from the grand social forum in the central atrium, to the most private and individually concentrated reader spaces at the perimeter of the building. A number of interactive activities are positioned close to the inner circle of the building to immediately engage visitors as they enter.

Externally, the building’s appearance is inspired by the fanning out of the pages of a book, inviting visitors to revel in all aspects of the written word in an uplifting social environment. Two large glass walls provide superb views of the River Tyne and the neighbouring Grade 1 listed Old Town Hall, two enchanting aspects of the building’s historic context.

The building’s immersive nature, diversity of choice and powerful architecture combine to create a significant and civilized building which points to the future, and underlines the importance of the library within our modern society.

The project has been presented with a number of awards, including:

RIBA
• National Award 2017
• North East Project of the Year 2017
• North East Regional Award 2017

RICS
• Project of the Year 2017
• Design through Innovation 2017
• Community benefit 2017
• Tourism and Leisure 2017

Project

The Word: Library in South Shields

Location

South Shields, South Tyneside

Value

£13.5m

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