a modern extension to a historic library
English The architecture firm Studio Weave presents the recently completed extension of the east londonLea Bridge Library. The project features a cafeteria and an adaptable community center with a rhythm wood inside. The space opens onto the library gardens, taking shape as a new heart for the Waltham Forest district.
The design team notes that the neighborhood is currently in a period of growth and cultural regeneration. Therefore, the library the extension provides a link to the community’s past and future, exploring the changing role of typology in the contemporary era by integrating a place to work, learn and socialise.
images © Jim Stephenson | @clickclickjim
the sensitive intervention of studio weave
Studio Weave’s new wing is located at the rear of the existing Edwardian red brick structure of the Lea Bridge Library. Covering 250 square meters, the extension is designed to lightly touch the existing heritage building and its green space known as the Friendship Gardens. the architects make use of the existing western garden wall as a structural backbone, anchoring the structure and volume of the building to one side, ensuring an open and seamless connection with the gardens.
High-strength laminated veneer lumber (LVL) cantilever beams support a length of overhead glazing and a floating wooden batten roof. Floor-to-ceiling glazing along the entire east elevation invites the outdoors in, creating a visual and physical connection to the Friendship Gardens.
a wooden interior punctuated by curved glass
Studio Weave carefully arranges its extension to the Lea Bridge library so that it sits harmoniously amongst the existing trees of the Friendship Gardens. The new construction takes shape with a rectangular plan marked by a large semicircular glass hole. The canopy curves and rises at a central pinch point to protect the root system of a nearby mature common lime tree.
The wide concave glass creates a momentary squeeze on the plane, a moment that serves to divide the pavilion. A pivoting wooden door hangs flush with the wall joinery and swings open to create a flexible space for private events, offering a valuable asset to the community while ensuring an additional source of income for the library.
A long colonnade runs the length of the new extension, with a gently leveled natural stone walkway to ensure level access to the rear event space. A façade of gently zigzagging red precast concrete panels and columns nods to the tone of the brick used in the existing library and conceals drainage that captures and redirects water to tree roots below the building.
an accessible interior
The architects prioritized accessibility in the design, including two new access points to draw visitors through the gardens to the side and rear of the site, bypassing the quiet library area. The main entrance and lobby on Lea Bridge Road have been renovated to include new laundry facilities, cart parking and an upstairs staff lounge.
From the lobby, the new cafe welcomes visitors before opening up to the main space. A continuous wall of grooved wood joinery connects the bookshelves with built-in banquette seating, creating interspersed open reading “rooms.” The open plan design can be adapted for a variety of cultural, recreational and community activities and can be used at different times of the day by different local groups and library users.
The architects’ rigorous approach to sustainability is felt throughout the building. Studio Weave has delicately balanced a light, open community space that benefits from a considered passive cooling strategy supported by mechanical ventilation for heat recovery (MVHR). The ceiling is carefully placed to shield the exposed aggregate floor from direct sunlight, and the continuous glass wall opens at intervals to allow for natural cross ventilation.
the palette of reused materials
Reuse is a strong theme throughout the extension. All interior joinery and furniture wood is constructed from reclaimed wood from trees felled in London’s publicly owned streets and parks. With this reuse strategy, the team aims to reduce the pavilion’s carbon footprint and reuse existing waste materials. Salvaged tree species include London plane, poplar, sycamore, ash, holm oak, turkey oak, redwood, buckeye and more, adding a rich variety of textures and hues to custom-designed freestanding and built-in furnishings.
Studio Weave worked closely with local furniture maker Sebastian Cox, designing a built-in banquette with fluted wood shelving that runs the length of the pavilion, reinforcing the link with the library and creating a natural visual language that is echoed throughout. Outside trees at Friendship Gardens. Sebastian Cox also designed custom tables, chairs and sofas for the new space, all made from 25 cubic meters of scrap wood.