Lambeth Palace Library as it Might Have Been

The library of Lambeth Palace contains the great collection of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the records of the Church of England. It has historically been kept in the palace complex but this year a purpose-built edifice was erected to house it.

Mock-ups of the design were released well in advance so it will surprise no one that the finished building is cold, institutional, and modern. But it might have been very different.

The architect Francis Terry recently shared designs on Twitter that he had submitted to the project. Terry’s vision for the library was a lovely Victorian gothic building sensitive to its surroundings and in keeping with the Tudor and Gothic survival/revival layers of Lambeth Palace itself.

This is Terry’s design:

This is the design that was built:

Terry describes his plan in an essay for UnHerd, writing:

Back in 2015 there was a competition to design a new library for Lambeth Palace. My scheme was up against the great and the good of the architectural establishment. I decided to design a Gothic style library reminiscent of the other buildings of Lambeth Palace. To avoid a huge tower with no windows overshadowing the garden, I decided to put all the archive space underground. It was a concept that would be more detailed and rationalised if my design was chosen by the judges. It is extremely rare for traditional designs like mine to win prestigious architectural competitions and so it came as no surprised when my scheme was rejected at the first available moment.

The winning design strikes me as distinctly inappropriate for an ecclesiastical setting.


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