The Cambridge University Library has been the main centre of research for Cambridge students since its completion in 1934. The building, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was launched to much public interest. Neville Chamberlain, prime minister at the time, called it a “magnificent erection”. It remains the main research library of the University of Cambridge today. It is the largest of 114 libraries at the university.
The library was constructed between 1931 and 1934. Scott designed the library to hold a colossal collection of books and papers. The design bears resemblance to Scott’s industrial buildings, such as Bankside Power Station. This can be seen in the library tower. Standing at 157 feet tall, it towers above the main library structure.
The building is steel-framed and brick-clad. The reddish brick used is very similar to that used in the earlier design of Battersea Power Station. Some say the architectural style also bears resemblance to the brick-cathedral style used in the Station.
The plan of the library is divided into sections which are home to various literature and works of art. The library has been extended several times over the years. Ground annexes and underground extensions have been added to accommodate the growing collection and to safely store legal deposit documents. The library is one of six legal deposit libraries under UK law. Legal deposit has existed in English law since 1662.
Scott also designed the neighbouring Clare Memorial Court at Cambridge. The memorial commemorates the Clare men who lost their lives in the First World War.