British Architectural Library
Originally designed by architect Sir Colin St John Wilson and his partner MJ Long between 1982 and 1999, it was the largest UK public building to be built in the 20th century. Intended to move and inspire its visitors, today the British Library’s London site is much-loved and well-used by scholars and members of the public alike for its soaring and stimulating spaces.
With its five public floors sweeping upwards like a wave, the architecture is both immense and extraordinary. Surrounded on both sides by 11 Reading Rooms, the Library’s centrepiece is the magnificent King’s Library tower, home to the library of George III as well as the Treasures Gallery that hold national Treasures such as Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels and original Beatles lyrics.
The building holds a prominent location on London’s Euston Road and shaped the emerging character of the surrounding area of north-central London as a place of collaborative research and study - referred to now as the Knowledge Quarter*.
Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: “The British Library divided opinion from the moment its design was revealed, but I am glad that expert advice now allows me to list it, ensuring that its iconic design is protected for future generations to enjoy.”
The listing coincides with seven libraries from across the UK that have been awarded Grade II status. These are:
Commenting on all eight listings, Tracey Crouch said: “Libraries are the cornerstones of the communities they serve. They act as meeting places, provide areas to learn and are a credit to the volunteers at the heart and soul of the service. Many of these libraries have stood proudly in their communities for more than 50 years and I am thrilled that these institutions can be admired for many years to come.”
Director of Listing at Historic England, Roger Bowdler, said: “The British Library is one of England’s finest modern public buildings. Listing it at Grade I acknowledges its outstanding architectural and historic interest. Colin St John Wilson’s stately yet accessible design incorporates fine materials and a generous display of public art. The Library’s dramatic and carefully considered interiors achieve its ultimate goal: of creating a space to inspire thought and learning.