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RIBA Stirling Prize Winner 2022 – The New Library, Magdalene College

RIBA Stirling Prize Winner 2022 – The New Library, Magdalene College
19 October 2022

The Royal Institute of British Architects has named its winner of the 26th RIBA Stirling Prize, which is awarded to the best building in the UK.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) praised The New Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge for its sustainable construction, attractive grid structure to support student collaboration and elegant design.


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A New Library for Cambridge University Students


Set within the college grounds in Cambridge’s city centre, the new library replaces the cramped study spaces of the adjacent 17th-century Grade I listed Pepys Library and extends the quadrangular arrangement of buildings and courts that have gradually developed from the monastic college site.  


“Well-designed environments hugely improve student success and wellbeing. They should be the rule for all students and teachers in all places of learning, not the exception."

–Simon Allford

President, RIBA


The building was praised for its simple but highly effective passive ventilation and natural lighting strategies to minimise energy in use, and materials such as engineered timber structure to reduce carbon embodied in its construction. 

Speaking on behalf of the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, RIBA President Simon Allford called the new building a “sophisticated, generous, architecture that has been built to last.”



Picture: a photograph of one of the library's interior rooms, showing shelves of books and a study table. Image Credit: © Nick Kane


Contrasting Openness With Intimacy


The library’s grid structure provides a variety of spaces for both collaboration and private study: wide zones for reading rooms and narrow zones for staircases and bookcases.  

The layout also creates a range of study spaces for independent study, with desks set into bay windows, hidden in private niches and within shared zones.


Light for Effective Study


Designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects, load-bearing brick, gabled pitched roofs, windows with tracery and brick chimneys combine to make a structure that appears to gradually rise up towards the light. 

A triple-height entrance hall leads into a central double-height reading room. Between each set of four chimneys, there is a large, vaulted lantern skylight.



Picture: a photograph of one of the library's interior rooms from below, showing the ceiling and skylights. Image Credit: © Nick Kane


A connecting passageway above, along the building's eastern end, provides views across the college and gardens and towards the river.  


Investment in Great Buildings is “Essential”


RIBA President Simon Allford continued: “Creating a new building that will last at least 400 years is a significant challenge, but one that Niall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility.  

“The result – a solid and confident, yet deferential new kid on the college block.   


Picture: a photograph of the library exterior at night. Image Credit: © Nick Kane


"The overarching commitment to build something that will stand the test of time can be felt in every material and detail, and from every viewpoint. This is the epitome of how to build for the long-term.  

“Well-designed environments hugely improve student success and wellbeing. They should be the rule for all students and teachers in all places of learning, not the exception.  

“As universities across the world work hard to position themselves in an ever-growing higher education marketplace, investment in great buildings is essential. This is an exemplary model to aspire to.”

Picture: a photograph of the library exterior. Image Credit: © Nick Kane

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 19 October 2022


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