4th April 2024

Upgrading the Rare Books Library at Newnham College

We are very pleased to have just completed the handover of the newly upgraded Rare Books Library at Newnham College. The original building was completed by van Heyningen and Haward in 1983 and as a distinguished exemplar building of its time, it was Grade II listed in 2018.

Forty years on, the use of the building had subtly changed, conservation standards had become more stringent, and elements of the building fabric and services had reached the end of their service-life. We were appointed by the college to assess existing fabric, establish optimal conditions and undertake interventions which would improve the long-term safety of the collection, and equip the building for another 40 years of use.

Our interventions increase the air tightness and insulation of the room, and increase its humidity buffering, maximising the stability of the collections environment by decoupling it from external conditions. They also exemplify how an evidenced-based approach to the historic fabric of listed buildings can be used to argue for beneficial change, keeping the building useful and preserved.