Planning granted for iconic University of Sussex library upgrade

5 February 2024
Credit: Keith Williams Architects
  • Keith Williams Architects
  • Keith Williams Architects
  • Keith Williams Architects

Keith Williams Architects



United Kingdom

New circular lift tower & walkway gains council approval

Brighton & Hove City Council have approved designs by Tenderstream member Keith Williams Architects for a new circular brick lift tower and walkway at the Grade II listed University of Sussex Library, paving the way for technical design to commence and construction to start later this year. 

Opened in 1961 as the first of the seven so-called plate-glass post-war universities, the University of Sussex laid out by Sir Basil Spence incorporates some of the finest works of post-war mid 20th century university architecture. Conceived by Spence as a "repository of knowledge”, the building’s grand scale brick expression - with concrete arched roof and monumental staircase - create a powerful composition. 

As a key part of the university’s drive toward campus-wide universal access, Keith Williams’ proposals will add a freestanding circular brick lift tower directly in front of the Library’s main façade to connect the university’s main public space and the Library main entrance. A new 80m long concrete walkway will be placed above Spence’s now largely redundant concrete services plinth, linking the lift tower and the Library to the wider campus.

The design of the lift as a brick drum/tower takes its references from other circular buildings on the campus designed by Spence. The tower will reflect the materiality of Spence's original facades, with niched bays and chevroned brickwork drawing from the local Sussex vernacular but reinterpreted in a pared-back manner to add to the tower’s sculpted form and monumentality. 

Fiona Courage, Deputy University Librarian, University of Sussex said: ‘The creation of a fully accessible main entrance to our Library has been a long-held aspiration at the University of Sussex, so we are thrilled that planning permission has been granted. The approved plans honour our architectural legacy whilst creating a modern, accessible entrance that will meet the needs and expectations of our university community. We are committed to making our campus more accessible, and the addition of a new accessible Library entrance marks the first step towards making our iconic Library accessible for all.’

Lucy Nordberg
Tenderstream Head of Research

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