The Literacy Library
2016 - ongoing | media: building | location: Waterloo, London | scale: 400m2
This design aims to convey the key role of story telling in the teaching of literacy whilst increasing the usability and flexibility of the building. It defines a narrative quality through a dialogue between the beautiful original spaces and features on one hand and lightly oneiric and alive new elements.
The Literacy Library is the redesign of the headquarters of CLPE, a charity based in South London that researches and trains the best teaching practices of literacy in primary education. Unusually for central London, this Arts and Craft building is entirely at ground floor as it was originally build as a School for children with impaired mobility in the early 20th century.
The first stage includes redesigning the reception, creating two new offices and bringing disused original lavatories to use. In each case, colour is used to reframe existing and renovated features in a contemporary language.
The second phase is the redesign of the multipurpose Hall and corridor as a library for their extensive collection of children books. The shelf space is maximised in alcoves around the room; these are shallow to maintain flexibility of the central open space for organising conferences and other events.
Inspired by the drawings made by book illustrators on a wall, a ritual has been designed that will regularly renew this space; every few years, publishers and illustrators will provide drawings that will be scanned and printed on wallpaper. These are then laid to cover the flat colonnade that surrounds the Hall to form an ephemeral fresco fixed to the end of the bookcases. The process is like a skin that renews itself and thus is always new and fresh. The performance of this process will simultaneously enhance the relationship between the centre and book publishers and illustrators. The design of the space and the ritual thus strengthens the network, and resilience, of the centre.
The third – unbuilt – phase transforms the existing schoolyard to give the impression that the ground, currently entirely covered with tarmac, is being taken over by nature, as if it was invaded by trees, and plants, as happens in fairy tales. A rain garden is proposed to create a sustainable water drainage system. This will both provide a gentler and poetic environment and increase the ecological value of the site in terms of species, environmental qualities and groundwater.
The project was developed from a democratic briefing process that successfully defined what needed to be achieved and built a buy-in from the entire organisation. The design grew through a regular dialogue with the centre; it is this exchange that allowed the creation of the ritual.
The team was fantastic. Alistair Hall from We Made This has designed and delivered an elegant graphic language for all signage that guides visitors through the space and celebrates the sponsors. Paul from Ashview have made the cabinetry beautifully within a tight programme. The printers at Absolute have made and installed the illustration wallpaper perfectly.
We have gained listed building consent for the alterations to this Grade 2 listed building.