Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library / Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, is the largest building in the world dedicated to the containment and preservation of rare books, manuscripts, and documents.



The light filters through the thin stone veneer in warm yellows and browns. The space is silent, and calm. The books holding the heritage of years and years of collective history and art and knowledge stand on shelves in a glass cube in the center of the space. They stand orderly, and patience.

“There’s an amazing degree of craftsmanship involved in printing and binding a book; Making paper, carving the plates for the engravings, printing the sheets, tanning the leather, sewing the signatures, sewing the textblocks, and binding the book. Not to mention – creating the work within; making the art, writing the story, crafting the poetry.

The act of housing these books is a sacred act. And, very few designers have done justice to that. In fact, most libraries are just functional colorful places to pull out information. Few buildings come close to catching any sense of reverence.”

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Securing our future – The London Library

“The London Library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle. His founding vision was for an institution which would allow subscribers to enjoy the riches of a national library in their own homes.”

It’s interesting how they have to keep adding half a mile of book storage every three years and they are continuously repairing books every day that they are open!


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The Peabody Stack Room of the George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland.

The Peabody Stack Room of the George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland.


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Crit Notes

Here are some points that came from other crits that are equally applicable to our project:


– Where and how do the interactions breakout in our building? Can we find precedents that create these encounters successfully?

– Can we use the process as a spectacle and plan the encounters and interaction around the process, attempting to spark conversation and interaction.

– Final slide as an overall recap worked well in other presentations.

– Use of site model to investigate context and approaches.

– How do our range of users get to the building? Is open access and library bill of rights inhibited by cost of travel in London?

– Who are our typical range of users? How will they use the building? 

– How will humans interact with digital information in the future? Will the ‘pictures under glass’ problem be resolved?

– How often do our range of users come to the library? One off tourists, regulars etc.

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Small Scale Paper Production

Useful points taken from a document promoting small scale paper manufacturing in developing countries,


– 50 tonnes of water required per tonne of paper produced.

– Anything under 30 tonnes per day is deemed ‘small scale’.

– Product range is more flexible in smaller plants, catering for a variety of demands.

– Storage for raw materials needs to be catered for (in our case unwanted books).

– Recycling paper is the most straight forward route in to paper manufacturing eliminating the need for acquiring virgin fibres, chemical digestion, bleaching and complex screening operations.

– Recycling uses half as much energy and water than the process from virgin fibres.

– Computer and book waste produces the highest quality of recycled paper due to the quality of the waste paper and low ink coverage.

– Major processes such as waste collection and transportation would not be required in our process as the waste is brought to us by the users recycling old books. 

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Self-determining Public Library

Self-determining Public Library

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