heneghan peng architects

University of Greenwich: Library and Academic Building | London

Greenwich, London, UK

The new library and School of Architecture and Construction is located along an approach from Greenwich Town to Greenwich Park¹ within the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. The site, which is currently derelict, is within an urban fabric of terraced building which suggested a fine-grained approach.

The architectural challenge was provide large spaces while recognising the low rise urban fabric and creating an active streetscape. Highest along Stockwell Street, where a civic presence is established opposite Hawksmoor’s St. Alfege, the building steps down to the residences, its stepping roof terraces, providing open teaching spaces. The Stockwell Street site is surrounded on two sides by 2-3 storey residential buildings, with the imposing presence of Hawksmoor’s Grade 1 listed St. Alfege Church across the road. To the North, a railway cutting slices through the traditional urban block.

The University organised a 2-stage competition to design its main Library and an Academic building housing the Departments of Architecture & Landscape and Creative Professions & Digital Arts. The brief required an aspirational building while meeting the requirements of staff and students for teaching and research, embracing the local community and sitting easily within the World Heritage Site. The new building brings the University off campus and into the heart of the town centre with a large library, educational spaces and other cultural activities. It has created a significant increase in footfall and vitality, helping local businesses and creating a truly mixed use town centre.

To keep height to a minimum, the footprint covers most of the site. Highest along Stockwell Street and the railway, where a civic presence is established opposite St. Alfege, the building steps down to the residences. Making every surface work, the stepping roofs become roof terraces, providing open teaching spaces that are not possible on ground and creating a vista for the adjoining properties. The porous ground floor is designed as a series of shopfronts, café, exhibition, print shop and legal advice centre that open into the public ground floor with its lecture theatres and exhibition spaces.

The site is organised into bands. Narrow bands bring light into the deep plan and carry services; Wide bands ( 8-12 metres) house the programme. The dimensions, and structure echo the dimensions of pre-twentieth century buildings, which had to recognise the limitations of daylight. The focal point of the academic building, the design studio and “Crit Pit”, occupy the entire first floor;an expansive space, yet divisable due to the banding. The logic of the banding is carried through to the main streetfront with the railway cutting conceptualised as a section cut which reconciles the two geometries on the site. Building materials are robust and self-finishing, concrete, steel and stone, to allow the occupants, future designers, the ability to layer on top of the infrastructure that the architecture provides.

The project is on target for BREEAM Excellent and Secure By Design accreditations. Inclusiveness in a broad sense was at the heart of the project, from opening up the University to the public to the detail of furniture and signage. Planning consent was granted in 2011, construction began in 2012 and the building opened as scheduled in September 2014. Shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling prize 2015

Fact sheet


University of Greenwich






Greenwich, London, UK


Structures | Civil

Alan Baxter Associates

Building Services

Hoare Lea




Sandy Brown


Drivers Jonas Deloitte

Specialist Lighting

Bartenbach LichLabor





Planning Visualisation


Model Photography

Richard Davies

Model Making

Andrew Ingham & Associates



heneghan peng architects
14–16 Lord Edward Street, Floor 2
Dublin D02 YC63, Ireland

Tel +353 (0)1 633 9000
Fax +353 1 633 9010



Potsdamer Strasse 98a, 4. OG
10785 Berlin

Tel +49 30 20 89 88 750
Fax +49 30 20 89 88 759