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Flagship library project to match academic ambitions

The University of Aberdeen has embarked on a major flagship library project worth £55.5M ($96.4M) which will consolidate the institution’s position as a leader among world universities.

The project, designed by the leading Danish architectural practice schmidt hammer lassen, will provide facilities for our 13,900 student community, replacing the existing Queen Mother Library which was built when the university had only 5,000 students on campus. The new building will also house the University’s historic collections comprising more than 200,000 rare books and over 4,000 archive collections.

Professor C Duncan Rice, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said of the project: “For 500 years the library has been at the heart of the University of Aberdeen. There has never been a more intellectually exciting time to be part of this University. Over recent years, we have attracted more than 50 internationally distinguished, senior academics and many more junior ones of equal potential. They are joining an intellectual community which is already extremely strong. Our competitively won research income has increased tenfold in the last decade. We are entering our Sixth Century of achievement as a leader in international learning, innovation and discovery.

“As we look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century, the library project is part of the vision to match the quality of our people and the richness of our history and heritage with an outstanding intellectual and cultural facility, the benefits of which will stretch far beyond our University community.

The new library will be located adjacent to the existing Queen Mother Library on the King’s campus. The QML will be demolished on completion of the new facility and the new library is expected to be open by 2010. Securing investment from funding bodies and individual donors worldwide will be an integral part of taking the development forward. This will continue a tradition of philanthropic support which has made the University what we are today.

The Danish architectural practice schmidt hammer lassen has an impressive portfolio of outstanding cultural and civic buildings, including the much-acclaimed Royal Library in Copenhagen. The team was selected for the Aberdeen project following an international competition which challenged architects across the world to create a library design for the 21st century and beyond. The competition attracted almost 100 expressions of interest, 40 full submissions and a shortlist of six.

Members of the SHL team have presented to internal audiences over the last couple of weeks, as part of a series of meetings with our internal communities, including our governors. In addition, the team made its first external presentation to members of Aberdeen City Council in late May and we will consult on a regular basis with the local community.

The new library is not for the University alone. It will be an inviting building for our local community and everyone who lives and works in the North-east. The ground floor will be a spacious, light, airy and welcoming public plaza, below a spiralling atrium with a café, regular exhibitions and events, and other attractions for the whole community. A public meeting is being held this evening (Wednesday, June 7) to communicate more information about this exciting new development for the whole area. It will be an opportunity to meet the architects and the University’s project team and most importantly to hear ideas about how the local community might want to use the new library building.

Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal, Library and Information Services, who is leading the University project team, believes the benefits of this major initiative will extend well beyond the University campus. He explained: “We are delighted to be working with schmidt hammer lassen as our partners in this ambitious and exciting project. Their approach is an excellent match for our own aspirations to provide the very best library facilities for students, staff, and researchers, reflecting modern study requirements and adding the value of new technology and electronic resources to our magnificent collection of books and other rare material.

“The new library will also enable us to preserve and vigorously to promote our outstanding heritage of unique historic collections, including the private library of our founder, Bishop Elphinstone, and to acquire further national treasures, which we know will attract interest from around the world.”

Morten Schmidt, Principal Project Partner with Aarhus-based schmidt hammer lassen, expressed the enthusiasm of his team for the project and said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been appointed to undertake this prestigious project for the University of Aberdeen. It is a great honour to win such an international architectural competition. We are aware of the library’s importance, not just for the University itself but also for the local community and the Scottish nation.

“We have designed a number of libraries in Scandinavia and feel that the chemistry between the Scots and the Danes is excellent. We are looking forward to developing the project to house the University’s priceless collections, working with its academic and local communities, and helping to attract funding towards a library worthy of this historic setting in Aberdeen.”

A final design of the new library building is expected in early autumn this year.

In its historic collections, the University of Aberdeen safeguards over a quarter of a million books and manuscripts, collected over five centuries from the foundations of the University in 1495. The exceptionally rich collection of Hebrew literature featured in media coverage last week at a joint event with the Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation to celebrate the Festival of Purim, with a scroll of the text of the Book of Esther as centrepiece for the event.

Other projects in the next phase of the University’s £228 million 10-year programme of investment in its infrastructure include:

· The £16 million Matthew Hay project, a partnership with NHS Grampian to create an outstanding purpose-built facility on the Foresterhill health campus for medical education and the ongoing development of 21st century skills for all members of the healthcare team. A total of £12 million has been committed by the two partner organisations, with an energetic fundraising appeal to raise a further £4 million being led by Professor Sir Graeme Catto. Edinburgh architects Bennetts Associates are now working on a design for the building, which is due to open in September 2008.

· The £23 million Aberdeen Regional Sports Facility, a sporting centre on the site of the Chris Anderson Stadium at Linksfield which will be a partnership between the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, and sportscotland, and which received outline planning approval last week. The University and City Council are each contributing £8 million towards the first phase of this ambitious project, and are working with sportscotland to secure an additional £7million.
This new community sports development, aimed at nurturing local talent as well as building a fitter community, will provide a full-size indoor football pitch as well as facilities for athletics and hockey. In addition, there will be a multi-sport games hall, squash courts, and fitness suites.

For media interviews on the University’s new flagship library with Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal, Library and Information Services, please contact Angela Ferguson, University of Aberdeen, on: +44 (1224) 272960 or for interviews with Morten Schmidt, Principal Project Partner with Aarhus-based schmidt hammer lassen, please contact Anne Strange Stelzner, schmidt hammer lassen, on: +45 87 32 53 04.

A brochure giving full details on this major flagship library project is available to be sent by pdf. In addition, high-resolution images and sketches to accompany this press release are available. Contact Angela Ferguson, University of Aberdeen, on: +44 (1224) 272960 to arrange. In addition, visit:


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Wednesday 7th of June 2006

Ref: 1990library launch
Contact: Angela Ferguson

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