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The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1
United Kingdom

Colin St John Wilson and Partners 1997

The British Library was completed in 1997, the end of a project that had been running from 1975. Impressing with a building in the late 1990s based a twenty-year old design was a challenge - but arguably a fair one, given that the brief said the building should have a working life of 200 to 250 years.

'The design principles derive from the mid-nineteenth century English Free School... a functional approach, allowing each building to develop according to its particular needs and through a free gothic form rather than employing classical Orders and conventions. Sir George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras Chambers (1867) next door is a superb example.

'The gulf between the sheer size of the building and the scale of its human users has been bridged by employing such devices as varied surfaces on which to sit, balconies on which to lean, short flights of steps and escalators, and visually breaking up large expanses of floor surface through a grid pattern in the stone and brick paving. Every detail from the readers' chairs to the book trolleys has been specially designed.'

Samantha Hardingham in London: a guide to recent architecture (Ellipsis 1999) - see below.


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Photographs Jay Berman, 1998
Updated 200

How to visit

The British Library is on the north side of Euston Road, between Euston and King's Cross stations (and a few minutes walk from either).

Information about location and opening hours is on the British Library web site. For specifics, contact Reader Services Enquiries:

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7412 7676

Books and other web sites

Click the book titles to view and to order direct from


3895082813.gif (14068 bytes) London: A guide to recent architecture
Samantha Hardingham, Jonathan Moberly, Tom Neville

A great practical visitor's guide, with one page per building of basic information and black and white photograph - part of a series for different cities and regions published by Ellipsis.


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