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Future Cities Forum at Lambeth Palace Library for May event

Above: Wright & Wright Architects' viewing tower, designed for Lambeth Palace Library, situated next to the Victorian-era Medical School buildings of St Thomas' Hospital'

Future Cities Forum will be holding a discussion event this May at Lambeth Palace Library in London. The forum will look at the design of the Library's buildings which not only act as an attractor for cultural visitors but add to the development of the arts and science district of this part of the Capital.

Questions will be asked on:

What is the best practice in design for cultural and science buildings?

How can they work together to form sustainable new districts?

Is the public realm around them designed to a sufficiently high standard to attract visitor numbers and science talent?

The new buildings for Lambeth Palace, which were designed by Wright & Wright Architects, allow the library's precious church archives to be preserved and created a visitor attraction in the form of a viewing tower. They are sited near to the growing medical sciences R&D hub at Royal Street (Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation) and St Thomas' Hospital NHS Trust medical school buildings and opposite the Palace of Westminster, which has been undergoing a refurbishment.

Wright & Wright has described the development context and design approach for Lambeth Palace Library:

'A significant new addition to London’s civic architecture, Lambeth Palace Library is the first new building on the site for 185 years and hosts the Church of England’s archive – the most important collection of religious books, manuscripts and archives in Europe, after the Vatican.

'The building is a sensitive yet distinctly modern architectural addition to the site of the Grade I listed Palace. Nestling in amongst mature trees at the north end of the garden at Lambeth Palace, the building sits on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Parliament.

'The location preserves the collection’s historic link to the Palace, while increasing public accessibility to the Library. In the new building the historic collections of Lambeth Palace Library – founded in 1610 and one of the earliest public libraries in the UK - and the records of the Church of England are being brought together, replacing inadequate facilities in a warehouse in Bermondsey, that risked the future of the collection.

'The contemporary redbrick building has four and five-storey wings, rising to a nine-storey central tower, crowned by a viewing platform that will be periodically open to the public. The central tower is designed to register on London’s skyline, aligning it with historical architectural commissions by Archbishops of Canterbury over the centuries, and reflecting the national significance of the collection. In tandem, the viewing platform, which has direct sight lines across the Thames to the Palace of Westminster, reinforces the connection between the Church and the State embodied in the collection.'

The new library buildings overlook the Evelina Children's Hospital (part of the St Thomas' Hospital campus) and the gardens are adjacent to Royal Street, which is a short walk from Waterloo Station, and the cultural attractions of the South Bank. In 2020, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity contracted with Stanhope PLC and The Baupost Group to progress the redevelopment of Royal Street, which comprises a five-acre mixed-use site opposite St Thomas’ Hospital. Working with local stakeholders, the charity has been formulating plans to deliver a world-class scheme with health and wellbeing at its heart. This major new development site for London will create a significant med-tech hub dedicated to using technology to progress medical developments. In addition, it will also be used as residential property and office space.

If this part of London is to attract worldwide talent, it has been acknowledged that the quality of cultural facilities and attractions is of the utmost importance. King's College London/Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust, Director of Real Estate Development, Peter Ward, described (at our November 'life sciences infrastructure' discussion) the scale of opportunity for development of innovation districts in the London Bridge and Waterloo urban areas and also the value of cultural institutions. The Trust has world famous teaching hospitals and medical school campuses, and is now looking to develop new workspaces for young start-up and scale-up life sciences companies:

'We are one of eight national academic health science centres designated by the UK government, which is branded as King's Health Partners, working with the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to establish an innovation district called SC1. This is where we will take into our campuses a sub-set of three R&D areas: biomedical engineering and healthcare, biotech, and a further area called 'mind and bodies'. This is an area of enormous diversity and great opportunity, both with the size of the student body that we have here, the collaboration that takes place between institutions and the size of these institutions.

Peter stated that the time is right now for development, and it will determine how the London Bridge area will look in the future:

'We need to leverage the fact that we are in central London to build this innovation district, otherwise you will see just offices everywhere. There is a culture in the NHS of designing bespoke buildings, but as we cannot predict the future of healthcare, we need to design our buildings with base needs to start with.'

Peter was asked how these young start-up companies could afford to live and work in this area and why they would be attracted to it:

'Drug discovery is no longer focused within big pharma companies, and they are looking for young start-ups to carry out the research. For the start-ups themselves, they want to be close to a university and a place with access to patients and academics, plus close to all the amenities and cultural attractions of central London. If we do not encourage these scientists to stay in the capital, they won't go to places such as Barnsley, we will lose them to Boston or Singapore.'

Below: Lambeth Palace Library - showing relation to the Evelina Children's Hospital on right of picture


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