SOAS University of London

Library Transformation Enters New Phase

4 August 2010
SOAS Library

After several months of 'enabling works', major refurbishment work on the Library Transformation Project has begun.

The first phase of works, planned by the architects John McAslan + Partners (JMP), will include the refurbishment of the ground floor library, new reception and entrance areas, new music practice rooms, group study rooms and a gallery exhibition space. 

Work being conducted over the summer includes the demolition of interior walls and the removal of old fittings and fixtures. Images of the work in progress are available at

This first phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The work is being funded by £6.5 million secured from HEFCE, the Wolfson Foundation and the School itself.

"The SOAS Library is at the heart of what we do, a critical resource for our staff, students, associates and visiting researchers," said Paul Webley, director and principal of SOAS. "Its national and international reputation as a primary destination for researchers in our fields of study is well-deserved and I am pleased that the School and its governing body has supported this major investment, which will help the SOAS Library to maintain its status as a UK National Research Library."

The SOAS Library was completed in 1973 by the renowned architect Denys Lasdun.  After a lengthy consultation process with the library staff and key user groups, including academics and students, JMP created a design to preserve the important architectural elements of the building, including the external and internal fair-faced concrete, the top-lit atrium with balconies stepping down to the reading room, the glazed roof light and the original doors.

"The School has worked with JMP to consult widely with our community about how to transform our library into a 21st century learning environment," said John Robinson, director of Library and Information Services at SOAS. "This project will enable us to make the most of the original features that Lasdun designed, whilst dramatically improving the layout for all our Library users."

Housing unique collections on the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the SOAS Library is one of only five National Research Libraries in the UK, holding over 1.2 million volumes, books, periodicals and audio-visual materials. When completed in 2012, the sensitively restored facility will provide 40 per cent more seating for readers and an 11 per cent increase in library space for its visitors, who come from around the world to carry out research.

SOAS is raising funds for a further £8m to enter the second phase of the project. This phase will see the refurbishment of the entire library building and atrium space, including central reading rooms and study carrels.

For further information, contact:

Anie Keshishian
Communications Officer (LTP)
Directorate of External Relations & Development
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
+44 (0)20 7898 4127 |