Nestled on the edge of Palace Green, high above the Wear gorge and a short distance from Durham Cathedral, this modest extension to the Palace Green Library was added in the mid 1960s to great fanfare, yet today it goes largely unnoticed. Pevsner sung the praises of the building’s setting and it’s response to the daunting Cathedral as ‘…can only be compared to Avignon and Prague’.
Perched on the western edge of the site, a slender stair tower looms at the top of the river walk. The rubble stone, intersected with cut sandstone window reveals is reminiscent of a medieval castle or tower house. The cut stone then gives way to sculpted concrete formwork, with tall window reveals carved into it in a castellated pattern.
The extension was designed by George Pace, an ecclesiastical modernist best known for his churches around Manchester such as the William Temple Memorial Church. Pace’s work is distinctive for it’s blend of Corbusian modernism with traditional craft. This is evident at Palace Green in the complimentary use of shuttered concrete on the chimneys and cleanly cut sandstone.
The extension was designed and built between 1961 and 66, but recently underwent refurbishment which partitioned the interior with a series of fully glazed rooms.
Images 1-6 copyright of the Authors
Image 7 copyright of BSEE