The British Library

Art Spaces

Colin St. John Wilson

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 444 7

    Size: 110 x 165 mm / 6.5 x 4.3 in.

    Binding: softcover

    Pages: 64

    In association with:

    Date published: April, 2007

    UK £4.95 /US $7.95


  • An entertaining and interesting account of one of the most important buildings in modern architecture
  • Continuing Scala s internationally renowned Art Spaces series on the architecture of buildings housing art


The British Library opened on its new site at St Pancras, London in 1998. No other construction project in Britain since the building of St Paul’s Cathedral has been comparable in its timescale – nor, it has sometimes seemed, in the magnitude of controversy surrounding it. The principal architect, Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson, has spent the greater part of his working life on it. Starting in 1962, blessed with the advice that ‘this job may take some time,’ he and his colleagues devised three full designs on two completely different sites over a period of 36 years. Throughout, he maintained a commitment to the very highest quality in all aspects of a national library designed with the interests of readers paramount, and built to last 250 years. Since it opened, the acclaim of countless readers has confirmed the success of the project. Colin St John Wilson narrates the complex history of the project, before explaining the design priorities he and his team pursued – including the inspiration of the organic tradition, the use of natural light, and the importance of symbolic form – and how they were implemented in the building. Featuring photographs commissioned by the British Library and drawings from the author’s personal archives, this is a fascinating account of one of the most important buildings in modern British architecture.

Author information

Sir Colin St John Wilson (1922–2007) was best known as the architect of the British Library, which was completed in 1998. As well as running his own architectural practice, he was Professor of Architecture at the University of Cambridge (1975–1989), the author of two important books on the history and theory of architecture, and a noted collector of modern art who donated much of his collection to Pallant House Museum. He was uniquely placed to write about both the development of the design concept of the British Library and the story of its construction. This book was published shortly before his death.