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Gladstones Living Heritage

Caruso St John
Competition | Past

​Gladstone's Living Heritage

To design a prestigious new building and re-develop the existing Grade I listed library and landscape

Invited Education and Health

Gladstone's Library sought submissions for an Invited Design Competition from architect–led teams with exceptional design skills for a prestigious new building and re-development of the existing Grade I listed building and its landscape.

William Ewart Gladstone (1809 – 1898) was the single most significant political figure of the Nineteenth Century. He founded the library in 1889 as a centre for debate, research and comment on the political, spiritual and cultural values he stood for.

Gladstone's Library is the UK's only Prime Ministerial Library and is unique in being a residential Library. Founded by Gladstone in 1889, its aim is to be 'the place to go' for debate, research and comment on the political, spiritual and cultural values that Gladstone stood for and, most importantly, showing how his ideals still have currency today. The client wants to extend their local, national and even global reputation through the quality of their programme and the excellence of their research collections, archive and exhibition. The project will bring Gladstone's legacy alive for the 21st century.

The client wants to develop the Library in order to promote wider engagement with the liberal values that lay at the heart of Gladstone’s life and work. The new building must be complementary to, but quite different from, the Victorian library building; a flexible, contemporary space will enable the expansion of the public programme including lectures and debates.

The aim is to create a visitor experience that will engage and inspire a broader range of audiences. It will be dedicated to three defining themes of Gladstone’s political career that have exceptional contemporary resonance – human rights and genocide; the evolution of democracy; religious tolerance. These themes will be the focus of a permanent exhibition and will form part of the Library’s future work and mission.

Caruso St John were selected as the winners of the competition from a shortlist including, AOC Architecture, Hopkins Architects and Simpson & Brown.

Charlie Gladstone, President of Gladstone’s Library commented:

‘When we first decided to embark on an ambitious extension of Gladstone’s Library we were clear that we wanted to work with a really good architect. Our aim was to further enhance the Library by creating a building of true beauty and national importance. And so we’re thrilled to be working with a globally recognised firm with a phenomenal track record. Gladstone’s Library is widely regarded as one of the world’s most important centres of liberal thought and our extension will help to further our reputation and reach.’

Professor Michael Wheeler, Chair of Trustees, Gladstone’s Library said:

The peaceful atmosphere of Gladstone’s Library is a precious quality for a publicly-accessible building, and this is the first thing that comes to mind when one is making plans for an expansion that will bring a greater number of people to this beautiful place.” Caruso St John Architects’ words reveal an understanding of the precious quality of Gladstone’s Library and its unique offering of books, beds and conversation. “Modesty” and “appropriateness” are important terms in their lexicon, as they are keen to produce a “new hall” which achieves a strong presence without challenging or overwhelming our original Gothic building. With its massive walls and long low profile, the new building has something of the monastic about it, referencing a long tradition of hospitality and reflection which we maintain at the Library. In the new hall we can offer readers and visitors charming spaces in which to enjoy lively exhibitions, good food and engaging courses and lectures.

I’m so pleased that we have before us an excellent proposal which promises to deliver a long overdue addition to the site in which W.E. Gladstone, learning and liberal values are honoured. Caruso St John and the Library hope to engage the interest and financial support of a wide range of individuals and foundations who share our aims and objectives.‘

Peter Francis – Warden and Director of Gladstone’s Library commented:

‘I am excited by Caruso St John’s deceptively simple and effective design. It is sympathetic, proportionally and materially to the existing and much loved Grade I listed building. As architects they bring a wealth of experience from their prizewinning work on cultural projects. Their design manages to combine both openness and seriousness: open and inclusive because it skilfully encourages anyone to come in and enjoy the hospitality of the building, its books and courses as well as its grounds; serious because, true to Gladstone, it offers a place for serious thought, resources to encourage that thought and people to share those thoughts with.

Caruso St John’s design not only fulfils our brief but will have a very low environmental impact and will minimise energy use beyond what we imagined was possible. All materials are local, renewable and recyclable. It is a wonderful design so without any hesitation at all we can enthusiastically and eagerly start to find the funds to realise both our own and Caruso St John’s ambitions.’

Peter St John from Caruso St John said:

‘We are really pleased about the prospect of working at Gladstone’s Library, which is a very beautiful building. Gladstone was a formidable character, and the library represents him well, being a generous and rather serious place at the same time. Our design for the New Hall is respectful of its special context, while also having a strong character of its own, and we look forward very much to developing the proposals with the library team’

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