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Peckham Library: A Case Study Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Architecture
Wordcount: 2753 words Published: 30th Apr 2018

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Peckham Library is a library and community building situated in Peckham, southeast London. Peckham Library opened to the public on 8 March 2000, with an official opening by Mr. Chris Smith, secretary of State for culture, media and sport. The library was designed by Mr. Will Alsop from Alsop & Stormer Company and it received the 2000 Stirling Award for architectural innovation. It also won the Civic Trust Award (April 2002) for excellence in public architecture, along with the London Eye and Tate Modern and the Copper Cladding Award for it’s vivid copper exterior.

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The building looks like an inverted capital letter ‘L’, with the upper part supported by thin steel pillars set at random angles. The building includes meeting rooms, children’s areas and the library. There is also an Afro-Caribbean section which attracts many visitors. Peckham Library is one of the busiest and most visited libraries, with nearly half a million visitors a year and over 245,000 issued items. The library was designed to be striking, to make people curious about what lies inside and to challenge the traditional view of libraries as staid and serious environments. The construction of the library cost 5 million pounds, including 1,25 million form Single Regeneration Budget program. This program also covered the creation of new low-rise housing //9 a mixture of owner-occupied and social housing) , Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Center, Peckham Square and Peckham Arch. Peckham Library is considered to be one of the best 5 libraries, along with libraries in Zurich, Chicago, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Southwark council, ( Peckham area council), tries to shake off the violent image of the area with guide to pull in tourists, that is why building like Peckham Library were built.In the nineties, Southwark was the ssecond most deprived council area in England, and Peckham was one of its worst areas. Housing was poor, unemployment high and the GCSE pass rate was a third of the national average. The area used to hit the headlines for it’s less wholesome reputations as a hotspot for crime, or shoddy public housing. Roger Young, head of the renewal team stated: “We don’t pretend that the place is perfect, but what we are saying is that there is a lot going on here that people should come and see. What people hear about the area comes from shocking headlines, but we have some world-class stuff here. Peckham has a thrilling mixture of cultures, history and architecture”.

The project was finished by 1998 and it formed a new inner-city plaza in London southeast district of Peckham.

Other well-known projects of Alsop and Stormer are the North Greenwich station in London and a ferry terminal in Hamburg.

The goal of this, (Peckham Library) building was to excite, attract and draw people’s attention so they would start interweaving with the Library.

The library opens at 9am and closes 8pm and includes seventy adult reading spaces, free internet access, word processing facilities and disabled access toilets.

There are many events during the week which attract local people to the library, such as 

  1. singing sessions for children every Monday
  2. baby and toddler sessions every Tuesday
  3. book club sessions every Wednesday
  4. homework help drop in for children every Wednesday
  5. over 50s club every first Friday of every month

Peckham Library has become a very popular spot and has reduced the vandalism around the area. Mr Alsop said in a question: “If you build a semi-decent building, it will not attract vandalism”.


Air is the invisible gaseous substance surrounding the earth, a mixture mainly of oxygen and nitrogen.

(Picture of composition of air)

Air travels from areas of high pressure to low pressure.

(picture of how the air moves in a room)

Peckham Library has 22 windows which are most of the times shut.

The building has no air-conditioning, therefore it is naturally ventilated. There is shading in many different areas around the building; therefore the sun light can not easily pass through.This kind of ventilation is named passive cooling

The concrete frame of the building, which is exposed to the soffit, also helps with the ventilation, because cross ventilation occurs and helps the concrete in terms of the air temperature, which prevents heat from entering the interior (heat gain prevention).

The window panels, which are laminated with four different film layers with different colour film, are very useful themselves, because during winter they help to keep the cold air away and the warm air to remain inside the building. However the windows can be easily opened, because a library is a place with many people and it needs a certain amount of air so it won’t get stifling.

The building has a radiation system on the walls and the floor, so the room gets a certain amount of warm air during winter time.

(Diagram of the weather in the UK)

Drawing number 1.

(In the floor).

Drawing number 2.

(in the wall).


The windows in the ceiling and the windows on the sides of the building allow a big amount of light to come inside, but artificial light is also used because there is not enough light during winter time or in the early mornings and late evenings.

During my first visit I’ve noticed that the lights in the library were switched on and some of the bulbs which are set in the high ceiling were straight lighting the area.

The light made the space more pleasant for the visitors and easier to read. Some lights were more inside the ceiling and surrounded by a mirroring effect, which helps the light to spread across the room.

This shows that Mr. Aslop was not relying on natural lighting, as the building has 300 light bulbs. If the lights in the library ever needed to be changed, it would take four days for the work to be done. The closure angered Southwark council leader Stephanie Elsy stated: “This is just not acceptable and we can’t allow it to happen again” she said. “It’s quite incredible that it has to be closed to do routine maintenance work. I can’t believe this is the only approach”.

(Light around my building)

Drawing number 3.

(quick drawing of the lights in the fourth floor of the building)

(Drawing of the windows on the left side of the Peckham Library building)

(Free hand drawing of how the light comes in the level four of the building)


Ground is the solid surface of the earth.

Earth is made out of many things. Deep inside Earth, near its center, lays Earth’s core, which is mostly made up of nickel and iron. Above the core is Earth’s mantle, which is made out of rock that contains silicon, iron, magnesium, aluminium, oxygen and other minerals. The rocky surface layer of Earth, called the crust, is made out of oxygen, silicon, aluminium, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium. Earth’s surface is mainly covered with liquid water and the atmosphere is mainly nitrogen and oxygen, with smaller amounts of carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gases.

Ground is very important to the process of building a building.

Before the planning of a building, architects and planners are being asked to measure out the site and to locate the piping and electricity.

It is also known that if someone wants to know about what type of ground has an area, he has to look at the old houses at the particular area. In previous years builders used materials that were easily found around the area they were build the house. Peckham Library on the other hand, is modern and futuristic and at first glance, it doesn’t seem to be the same as the buildings around it. It is made out of concrete, metal, copper and glass, while the buildings around are made out of bricks. The architect used these specific materials both to make it outstand and fit into the area at the same time.

(Picture of earth’s materials)

All the materials that are used to build a building come from earth.

Peckham library is made out of:

1) Copper cladding steel [used on the majority of the exterior ( South,East, West and roof)] .

(Picture of copper on its first form)

(Copper at Peckham Library)

2) Glass (both plain and fluorescent, used for windows and doors) .

(Picture of glass at Peckham Library)

(Drawing of the Indian Sandstone Paving outside Peckham Library,at the front side)

3) Metal (used for the casings and the supporting columns on the Plaza).

(Picture of the supporting columns)

A significant portion of the structures exterior is covered in copper steel. Traditionally copper steel is being used mainly for pipes; however the copper supplied by TECU, a German manufacturing company, is used in an unconventional manner in Peckham Library.

Alsop’s design required a material that would be cheerful but intriguing therefore TECU®-Patina supplied the green horizontal sheet cladding which has a very distinctive appearance. By using sheet material, Alsop was able to have the material cut in to linear forms which produce ‘seams’. These ‘seams’ run down the facade which draws attention to the slanted steel supports.

The steel mesh which protects the glass is somewhat unexpected because there is no need for protection of the glass although criminality in Peckham area is very high. The steel mesh is a Sambesi450 product which is made from stainless wire cables and rods which are an average of 7mm thick and weigh approx. 11.2 kg/ m². Steel is also used in the slanted rods which support the overhang.

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Even though I believe that these materials where chosen to make the structure lively, playful and fascinating, mainly because Mr Aslop wanted to attract and draw peoples’ attention so they would start interweaving with the Library, I also believe that the materials used were intended to stand the test of time and survive acts of vandalism and adverse weather conditions in Peckham area.


Water is a colourless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.

Information about the water and the pipes in Peckham library building could not be found, as the people in the library stated that such information is confidential.

Instead, I found the plan of level four of the building and searched for the toilets. This is where the pipes are more likely to be.

The water in Peckham Library is black water, which means that it is used only in the sanitation system of the building, as the library does not provide other areas that water is needed.

(Plan of level five that illustrates where the toilets situated in the building)


Energy is the power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.

“Energy cannot be created nor

destroyed within a system”.

Energy can be used for transportation, or the industry ,or for residential and commercial reasons.

There are plenty of energy types:

  1. Oil
  2. Nuclear
  3. Solar
  4. Wind power
  5. Geothermal
  6. Hydropower
  7. Fuelwood
  8. Coal
  9. Natural gas

(Picture of fuel consumption)

Peckham Library has heat demand of 369.

(This data was received from DeMAP )

Firstly the window façade of the building is made out of Vanceva Interlayer Colours windows. They are made out of different coloured layers assembled between layers of clear glass. Therefore when the heat approaches the glass it is redirected back into its environment, which means it provides a good thermal insulation.

Secondly the copper, which the building is made from, is generally considered to be a good transmitter of heat, this suggests that the building is well isolated, however not all heat is kept in; some of it is released back to the atmosphere. The window facade is made out of four layers, therefore as the heat approaches the glass it is redirected back into its environment, that means it provides a good thermal insulation.

Energy within the building is used in the form of electricity.

It is used mainly for lighting, but for the machines as well (computers, elevators, heaters, photocopying machine and automatic doors).

The energy comes from a generator, which is situated at the back side of the building.

(Energy sources in a modern building)


Recycling is a process to change materials (waste), into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to plastic production.

In architecture, recycling mainly means the reuse of energy, but it can also mean the reuse materials, such as glass bottles can be used to make a wall, or coins can be used for making floorings.

Peckham Library has one recycle bin and one general waste bin on the fourth floor. It doesn’t seem to motivate people to recycle, even though the room has some posters about recycling.

There are also general waste bins and recycle bins at the plaza area.

When I visited the library, the floodlights were on, even during the day. Ironically Southwark Council has published suggestions for low cost ways to be green yet the large cantilever makes the space below devoid of sunlight, even on sunny days. According to a blog reviewing sustainable buildings, the flood lights cost an estimated £4,800 a year in energy costs.

(Picture of bins on the left side of the library)


Synthesis is the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole.

The structure of the building is a synthesis of two rectangles.

Mr Alsop wanted to make something that is eye-catching and very difficult to miss. The most obvious structural feature of the building is the large overhang which is supported by thin, slanted metal columns. From the outside it appears that the library floor is balanced 12m in the air by the poles and the rest of the building is firmly grounded.

(Picture of the combination of the shapes of the building)

The structure on the inside of the Library is rather interesting. It seems that there are three smaller building inside the building, in which you can get inside and read.

(Picture of plans and elevation of the building)

The staircase at the back of the building is very unusual; it is made out of concrete, metal and glass. The glass is placed in the middle of the steps so it allows the light through the whole back part of the building.

(Picture of the synthesis of the stairs)

What I would change/add.

If I had a choice to change something in the building I would add a small cafe at one of the three pods or at the roof. I believe that it would be a good idea and that it would attract even more people than it does now. People would have the chance to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while they read or relax.


Peckham Library is a public building that attracts many people and gives a chance to learn about different cultures and civilisations.

This project managed to bring a positive publicity to the area and attract people to come and visit it.

That has a positive affect not only at the economic situation of the area, but at the cultural as well. People exchange opinions, learn from each other meet new people and they broaden their horizons.


Voyager Magazine, Archello, KME, The Guardian, Building.co.uk, Website: Southwark Council, Website Physics ,User Peckham2 on tumblr, Wikipedia, Website: Recyclart, Website:

Generation of Energy-Efficient Patio Houses With


Peckham’s Library file about the library, DeMAP, pictures from google,


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