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Extraordinary places make extraordinary people

Our challenge was to design an ambitious community-run space as part of a larger, long-term regeneration plan for Southmead, Bristol. A home to a health and wellbeing hub, community enterprise space, and an enhanced Bristol City Council library. Also sharing the space is an employment, training and advice hub. Located in an already thriving retail area, the hub adds vital community space to support the extra footfall which new homes will bring. This will also support the community projects and services in the area and create and continue strong partnerships with other organisations.

Southmead Library is now in a new purpose-built home as part of the community-led development. The library is co-located with a community enterprise hub and offers longer opening hours and improved services to better support the local community.

Upon entry into the library visitors are greeted with a modern display unit with built in benches in a layered effect to create a feature at the entrance. Height-adjustable info pods are clearly visible from the main entrance and we created a non-obtrusive approach allowing customers to wait/browse and not feel crowded. There are un-obstructed aisle, circulation, and thoroughfares throughout with no dead ends in the main open plan areas. There is a clear route to the Children’s Library, Staff Help Points and beyond from Main Entrance. The central laptop bench is perfect for “bring your own device” Display shelves on the end panels showcase the latest books and mixed in with graphics to create a welcoming environment. A quiet, soft seating area and the use of Cocoon seating in the open plan areas creates extra privacy.

The new Business Centre (BIPC Local) is a dedicated space to help support and grow local small businesses and help the economic recovery of the city. Black and White BIPC graphic catches the eye and provides good wayfinding. The BIPC Area includes a Nook Unit for privacy and meetings and has clear views from the open plan Staff Pod area through to Public Access PCs.

The children’s library is playful, vibrant and inclusive in the exploratory children’s Library, allowing children to get involved with a low level custom-made staged area for story time sessions. Browsing is encouraged by using low level storage and wall display shelves. The children’s area is a fabulous, fun attractive space with the shelving sectioning this area off to give a feeling of privacy. Allowing book bug and rhyme time to continue freely. A tepee/mountain style cocoon designed creates a cosy nook for reading, tying in perfectly with the mountain scape graphic on the back wall. There is collaboration Seating for “Reading Together”. An image wall reflects the block theme graphics and fabric selections throughout the library making a natural connection of all zones.

Discrete flooring designs and patterns delineates zones. Combining this with carefully selected materials, colours and products provides visual continuity throughout. Spacing between all shelving and furniture has been carefully allowed for buggies, mobility scooters and manually propelled wheelchairs. Aisles and turning spaces are 1200mm or above and main thorough fares are always larger.

Good sightlines are critical so there are good sightlines from the Staff Desks with the ability to see across the whole open plan library. By using bar height info pods, we enhanced visibility throughout, increased the opportunity for staff floor walking/engagement (esp. in the BIPC area) and reduced the opportunity for anti-social behavior.

Products used at Southmead Public Library, United Kingdom

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