University of Aberdeen New Library / Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

© Adam Mørk

Architects: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Location: University of , Scotland, United Kingdom
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Adam Mørk

Project Area: 15,500 sqm
Client: University of Aberdeen

On September 24th 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain marks the official opening of the University of Aberdeen New Library in Scotland. The building, won in an architectural competition in 2005 by , is replacing the University’s former library from 1965 – the Queen Mother Library.

© Adam Mørk

The 15,500 m² new library, which provides a 21st century learning and research environment for students, university staff, visitors and the public, is a positive example of how architecture can make a difference. Since the building was put into service in September 2011, the statistics have shown a significant increase in the use of the library, and more than 700,000 visitors have entered the building this first year of operation.

© Adam Mørk

“The University of Aberdeen New Library functions as a meeting place and a cultural centre for the students of the University as well as the Aberdeen community. The façade of the building shimmers during the day and glows softly at night, creating a luminous landmark – a beacon – for the city of Aberdeen,” said Morten Schmidt, Founding Partner of schmidt hammer lassen architects, and he continued: “The increase in visitors shows that the new library has affected the students’ everyday behaviour.  The students come to study in the new library and to be a part of the social community of the University.”

© Adam Mørk

The requirements in the competition brief were to create a magnificent academic library for science and research, which would at the same time be a meeting place engaging the local community.

© Adam Mørk

Chris Banks, University Librarian & Director, Library, Special Collections & Museums, University of Aberdeen, said: “The building is a bold and affirmative statement from the University. It says ‘We mean business’ and it also says ‘you are welcome here’. I love the way in which academics demonstrate their pride in the building: by bringing colleagues from other universities into it and also by bringing along members of their own families. I’m also delighted that the building has attracted so many more students to use the library and the way in which it provides for both social and formal meeting spaces. It has, for the first time, allowed us to truly showcase our very significant special collections.”

© Adam Mørk

The University of Aberdeen was established in 1495, and the University library holds one of the world’s greatest collections of books, some of which date back to the thirteenth century. The architecture of the new building creates an advanced learning environment in which the latest technology adds value to a magnificent collection of over one million books.

© Adam Mørk

Architecturally, the heart of the library is a spiralling atrium connecting all eight storeys, and as a dynamic vortex, this space contrasts the clean cut exterior profile. Furthermore, the building is designed to meet the highest sustainable standards, minimising long term running costs and energy use. The library has been certified BREEAM Excellent. Consisting of an irregular pattern of insulated panels and high performance glazing, the façade not only allows plenty of daylight to penetrate into the building but also offers a great view over the city of Aberdeen.

© Adam Mørk

At the opening ceremony, the University of Aberdeen New Library will be named the ‘Sir Duncan Rice Library’ in recognition of the vision, ambition and leadership of the University’s former Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Sir Duncan Rice.

© Adam Mørk

schmidt hammer lassen architects has an extensive track-record of libraries, from university and national libraries to public libraries. Currently, three libraries are under construction: The largest public library in Scandinavia, called Urban Mediaspace in Aarhus, Denmark, to be finished in 2014, and two libraries in Canada, one in Halifax and another in Edmonton. The most well-known library by schmidt hammer lassen architects is the extension to The Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ground Floor Plan

schmidt hammer lassen architects has worked out of London since 2006. Among the most renowned learning environments designed by the architectural practice is City of Westminster College in London, which had its official opening in May this year.


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Cite: "University of Aberdeen New Library / Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects" 27 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Andrei Seregin

    Beautiful. I liked it.

  • Mike Bond


  • N Cullen

    I’m very impressed with this! I especially loved how they intertwined art into to the shape and consept of the building.

  • N Cullen

    This is impressing! I especially loved how the clearly intertwined art into the consept and shape of the building.

  • Anna

    I admit that my first reaction to this building when I saw it on photos was that the cube doesn’t fit within its surroundings BUT sometimes photos can be misleading. My actual experience of it when I went to see it can be defined as an architectural orgasm.
    It looks brilliant, and when I entered it, I just watched the atrium above me and stayed like this for a minute…
    It is a lot about interaction in here, I think. You necessarily have to take the lift which opens an extraordinary view towards the city and once when you get to any of the floors you can either go to the private study areas provided or go near the atrium and let’s say you are on the top floor- you can even see people who are entering the building and what my fellow-traveler (who is not related to architecture) noticed is that safety is cleverly planned- because if you crazy enough and want to jump- you can’t fall to the very bottom but only 1-2 floors below- nice observation of him. : )
    I feel that there are so many things about this building- I can’t even describe them all..

  • Amr Abdalla

    very nice void idea !

  • Al

    Sometimes I feel when one specializes in doing something too much, e.g.libraries – he or she might lose interest. To me the minimal cube form contrast strongly with random stripes of fenestration, the entrance is not marked clearly. But after the visit to the actual building I felt that in reality it is not as comfortable. The top floor overheates in summer, the air conditioning is not sufficient. Actual students of Aberdeen University told me that it is very bad idea to make open void in a library. Through the busy days the cafe on the ground floor disturbs everyone studying 6 floors above.