Ground-breaking ceremony for new library

Construction of one of the most prestigious new buildings in Scotland – a flagship £57 million library for the University of Aberdeen – is now underway

A ground-breaking ceremony will take place at the University today (Monday, September 7) on the site where the state-of-the-art library is being built.

The new University of Aberdeen library will replace the existing Queen Mother Library, and provide a 21st century learning and research environment for students, staff and visitors.

The University has appointed construction company Pihl UK Ltd as the main contractor for its flagship new Library.

To mark the commencement of construction work, around 40 invited guests, including the project team and University and Pihl staff, will gather at lunchtime for a ground-breaking ceremony.

Senior figures attending the event include Professor Sir Duncan Rice, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal and academic lead for the Library project and Aird Buist, Director, Pihl UK Ltd.

Conceived by architects schmidt hammer lassen as a cube evoking the ice and light of the north, the new Library building has a sharp, modern design, and a striking interior of sweeping contours around an asymmetrical atrium which rises diagonally from the public ground floor through the floors above.

Flexible areas on the upper floors will provide an ideal modern learning environment in which new media and the latest technology will enhance the University’s magnificent collection of books.

The new library will also house the University’s distinguished collections of rare historic manuscripts, books, and archives. For the first time, these treasures will be widely accessible for research and learning, including a programme of exhibitions, educational and cultural events.

The task of turning the vision created by Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen into a distinctive new landmark on the Aberdeen skyline attracted wide interest from major construction firms. The contract with Pihl UK Ltd is for construction of a building of nine floors including a lower ground floor and landscaping.

Creating a magnificent new library spearheads the next phase of the University's ambitious investment programme to develop the infrastructure to match its academic aspirations.

The project will provide much more than a conventional library and spearheads a £230 million investment programme by the University to develop its campus infrastructure to match its ambition to be ranked within the world's top one hundred universities.

It will provide an important resource for the whole community, who for the first time will enjoy access to priceless historical collections of books and manuscripts and regular events.

A dedicated Special Collections Centre within the building will offer a welcoming cultural venue where a wide range of public audiences can engage with the collections through educational programming, exhibitions and volunteer opportunities. 

Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal and academic lead for the Library project, is looking forward to welcoming guests to today’s ground-breaking ceremony and said: “I am delighted that the University of Aberdeen library is gaining such momentum and that construction work has started on the campus. 

“I am extremely pleased with the appointment of Pihl UK Ltd, to be involved in a project of this scale, distinction and calibre.

“The University is excited about the library, and to be involved in building an iconic intellectual and cultural facility for both the University community and for scholars and the wider public throughout the world.

"The new library will be a visually striking building and will be a cultural landmark for students, academics and people of many backgrounds and interests, inviting them to be inspired, enthused, educated and entertained.”

Pihl UK Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of E.Pihl & Søn A.S, which is a global corporation with Danish roots. The Pihl Group covers all major types of civil engineering and construction activities from infrastructure assignments, water supply, environmental projects to universities and cultural buildings.

Mr Aird Buist, Director, Pihl UK Ltd, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed to work with the University of Aberdeen on this exciting and innovating project. This modern design includes many exciting structural elements but these will not be seen within the finished building. It is quite unusual for so many of these elements to be incorporated into one building and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

The new Library will provide facilities for the institution's 14,000 student community, replacing the existing Queen Mother Library which was built when the University had only 5,000 students on campus. The new Library will also be a showcase for a 200,000 strong collection of historic books and over 4,000 archival collections entertained.

The building is scheduled to open to students, staff, local communities and other visitors in September 2011.