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Literary education under threat from closing libraries

Kent's Clague Architects are in the fight to save Britain's libraries, starting with Streatham Tate

Posted by Charley Rogers | September 19, 2017 | Bricks & mortar

The country is in the midst of a literacy crisis. The UK has one of the lowest literacy rates in the developed world, and this has been further magnified by the closing of libraries across the country.

In the past six years, 340 libraries have closed down across the country, while this same number again are set to close in the next five years – mainly due to cuts from central government. But it is not just the traditional purpose of the library that will be lost with these closures - as The Streatham Tate Library demonstrates. 

Clague's work on Streatham

The Streatham Tate is more than just a library; like so many libraries designed in the Victorian period, it is a location of historical, cultural and architectural significance. Designed by the Tate Modern’s architect, Sidney R.J. Smith, the library encapsulates the classic architectural culture of grandeur and majesty, typical of the Victorian Era. Conceived of and funded by self-made millionaire and philanthropist Henry Tate, (from whom both the library and gallery take their names) the library was presented to the people of Streatham under the Libraries Act of 1850. It is this sentiment, and the building’s links to culture and history, that were at the forefront of Clague’s plans for the building. 

Subject to a £1.4m refurbishment, led by Clague Architects , the library is now a cultural and community space for an area which encompasses more than just Streatham, but also includes Brixton and Tulse Hill. Services include, amongst others, parent and toddler groups, film screenings, over-50s exercise clubs, and hot desk facilities for local business people. It also facilitates a number of after school clubs as well as working closely with local Lambeth schools supporting the reading challenge. Whilst modernised, Streatham Library remains inextricably linked to its original purpose; a building that’s foundations are dedicated to positively impacting the lives of the resident population.

When designing the layout of the library, this was something that Clague, Kent's largest architect firm now making waves in the London scene, had to take into consideration. Ensuring that the library was able to incorporate all these services, while still keeping the classic look of the building was vital.

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