Museum & Library, Castleford

The practice won an RIBA competition to design a new museum and library in the heart of the town. The site already contained two buildings that had strong associations with Castleford’s intellectual and economic history, the library and market hall.

Our strategy was to retain the high rooms of the old Carnegie library, and to reinvent the market hall as an indoor public square for the town, a place of exchange. The floor of the square becomes a mosaic-like surface that uses materials from glassmaking, ceramics and coal mining. In Roman terms this represents earth, fire and memory. Above the hall the roof is like a floating ship that contains the main reading room of the library. On looking up, you see the faces of readers absorbed at their desks. Beyond them light streams through from the high clerestorey.

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We proposed a slender tower as one completely new element for the site. This contains the community and museum spaces and is crowned by a large temporary exhibition space, offering a 360 degree vista over Castleford. The tower acts as a marker for the town with the new museum and library as its central destination.