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University Library and George Pace Building

University Library

As the University expanded through the 19th century, so did need for space to teach undergraduates. The impressive Victorian buildings to the left of main library entrance on Palace Green were originally built as Lecture rooms in 1882, but were eventually taken over by the ever-expanding library. It was designed by the architect Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829-1899), who was particularly notable for his use of the Gothic Revival Style.  

His most famous building was the Royal School of Music in South Kensington, London, but his main work was the restoration of churches. His Durham library building is characterised by large open spaces, wooden clad decorative supporting pillars and vaulted roof spaces. It also has an impressive open well stone staircase with a twisted iron handrail. This building now houses the Museum of Archaeology.

The George Pace Building

Exactly 300 years after Bishop Cosin built his library, the University commissioned a new library building at Palace Green, which was completed in 1968. Hidden at the back of the site facing the riverbanks, it was designed by the architect George Pace (1915-1975). Pace’s buildings were Modernist, but he had significant respect for traditional styles and was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement.   

Built in concrete but clad in stone, its exterior was designed to complement the Castle and Cathedral on either side. The interior, especially the main reading room, is churchlike in its airy modernist refinement, combining glass, steel, concrete and wood with lofty skylights and suspended walkways to create a hidden mid-20th century architectural gem. It was designed to house the University’s law library, but now hosts the Barker Research Library, home to the University’s Archives & Special Collections, which just like Cosin’s Library, is still open to everyone. 

Palace Green Library Exterior