The new library was completed as part of the first stage of the redevelopment of Newcastle City Centre. It formed part of the proposed ‘Arts and Library plan’, which along with a proposed (and unbuilt) extension to the Laing art gallery and museum, formed one side of an upper-level square built over John Dobson Street. The square was to hold outdoor exhibitions and be busy with street traders during the day. It was to be connected to the new, high-level pedestrian deck that would run through the whole city centre – a key feature of T. Dan Smith and Wilfred Burns’ plan for the centre of Newcastle. However, with these plans were only partially realised, and with the deck-level of the city all but abandoned, the building struggled to fulfil the grand plan.
As a result of this grand urban vision, there were pedestrian entrances to the library on each of the first three floors which contributed to a somewhat disparate arrangement of functions inside and killed any activity at street level. The library was unified behind a grill of vertical concrete ‘louvres’ or fins which ran around the outside giving texture and shadow to the building’s façade, but leaving the interior dim and wholely dependant upon artificial light.
The library was demolished in 2006 with Ryder Architecture completing a new central library on the site in July 2009. The new library connects far more successfully at street level and at the upper level where a cafe and terrace open out at the rear of the building give optimism that the elevated square will find new activities.
Photo 1 copyright of Phil Thirkell under the Creative Commons license.
Photo 2 copyright of Les Bessant under the Creative Commons license.
Photo 3 copyright of Grewlike under the Creative Commons license.
Photo 4 copyright of givepeasachance under the Creative Commons license.
Photo 5 source unknown.