The David Wilson Library is located on the University of Leicester’s Campus and serves over 22,000 students. Increasing student numbers, developments in information technology and changes in learning practices meant that the original 1960s library building was no longer fit for purpose. The original library building was designed to be a store for books and as a place for quiet study, rather than a place for students to meet, work and interact with each other. Associated Architects were therefore commissioned to design a scheme for refurbishing and extending the existing building to cater for the needs of current and futures generations of students.
One of the key design challenges was that when the original building was constructed its services were integrated within its reinforced concrete frame, which at the time was a ground-breaking configuration that won the building a RIBA excellence award. However, when the building was later extended this configuration made changing the building’s services more difficult than it could otherwise have been, because the two building layers were in effect frozen together. Interestingly, the scalability of the building had always been a consideration: when the building was originally constructed, economic constraints meant that the footprint of the library was smaller than intended, so a knock-out wall was constructed at the rear of the building in order to allow for future extension.