Cambridge University Library

Winning Competition Scheme

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In 2014 the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and Cambridge University Library ran an open ideas competition to suggest a new landscape setting for Giles Gilbert Scott’s 1934 library building. Our winning entry began with the idea of a Jurassic wilderness: we were struck by the weight and mass of Scott’s structure – the power station aesthetic, strong symmetry and forbidding plinth – and wanted to soften it with a tangle of naturalistic planting. Inspired by the Egyptian-style ornamentation on the building’s portals, we developed a loose organisational system for the planting, which leads visitors on an un-formal journey of discovery towards the library threshold. This was one project which really needed to come alive at presentation, and we made large-scale models in lieu of drawings, planting them with vintage figures and real herbs so that they appealed to an unexpectedly broad range of senses. Although there are no immediate plans to realise the project, the design has raised awareness and, crucially, attracted funding to make the scheme possible at a future date.



Max Fraser