The BA3 Continuity in Architecture brief provoked a re-imagining of the existing library in Shrewsbury, a medieval market town in Shropshire, to provide a new cultural destination south of the city centre.
Using the Atelier ethos of contextualism as a theoretical starting point, the scheme is rooted in the metaphysical history of the site: as a quarry, and on the boundary line between the medieval town and the open expanse of the park. It aims to ‘anchor’ the end of key routes of movement through the city, in a response to its presence on the 'perimeter'. A sequence of spaces are set up to navigate this boundary, drawing the visitor towards the main spaces of the library and outwards into the park through the use of 'leading' and 'pressured' points. The proposal imagines the library as a place with an inherent tension between its collective purpose as a cultural and civic centre, and the individual act of reading and study. There are a variety of intimate niches, nestled alongside spaces for performances, talks and community activities. The use of rammed concrete as a material ‘embeds’ the building into the landscape, making reference to the layers of history on the site, offering the character of geological strata, and relating to the recent excavations of parts of the old town wall.
"Every new work of architecture intervenes in a specific historical situation. It is essential to the quality of the intervention that the new building should embrace qualities which can enter into a meaningful dialogue with the existing situation. For if the intervention is to find its place, it must make us see what already exists in a new light. We throw a stone into the water. Sand swirls up and settles again. The stir was necessary. The stone has found its place. But the pond is no longer the same." (Zumthor, 1988)