undefinedA photograph showing the exterior of Hornsey Library

Photo credit © Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture

Better than ever

The Grade ll-listed library was, however, in need of an update after more than half a century of continuous service to the local community in Crouch End, London. It was renovated at a cost of £3.7 million, as part of Haringey Council’s library improvements plans 2019 - 22. 

Major works completed in November 2020 provided new furniture and IT equipment, an improved childrens library section, and a refurbished main entrance and main library. Essential internal and external maintenance work was carried out, including roof repairs and installation of a new boiler and heating system.

Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture, commissioned to restore and refurbish the library, took their cue from the original 1960s build project, ensuring close co-operation between librarians and architects.

Fabric first approach

Design sensitivity was needed to protect the library’s listed features and maintain as much of the original interior as possible. Essentially the task was to create more space, meet 21st century standards, and satisfy modern-day users’ needs and expectations - whilst respecting the fabric and character of a much-loved building.

Described by the architects as a ‘fabric first approach’ - restoring and reusing as much as possible - the renovation also made the building much more energy efficient. High-performance insulation, double-glazing and a photovoltaic roof, along with a new heating system, LED lighting and natural ventilation, have significantly reduced the library’s CO emissions.

Sixties vibe

The Swinging Sixties vibe is still very evident. An April 2021 article in the RIBA Journal noted that: “Most of the original features have been preserved, while carefully chosen additional lighting and furniture fit with its 1960s look - a little bit Scandinavian, a little bit Mary Quant.”

We have arguably already lost too much architecture from this era so it’s good to know that Hornsey Library is protected by listed status, and great to see it sensitively renovated to serve present and future generations. It’s hard to get a handle on before-and-after performance figures because of coronavirus closures, but Haringey Council says feedback from residents has been positive.