In an age when the power and availability of digital information is on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory, it might seem that major investment in a bricks and mortar library would be foolhardy. Luckily, the former Principal of the University of Aberdeen, Sir Duncan Rice, did not share that view.
Today, the Sir Duncan Rice Library is one of the most visually striking buildings in Aberdeen. Standing at the west end of the university campus since 2012, the exterior consists of reams of asymmetrical opaque and glass panels joined together to create the illusion of shimmering ice, as was the vision of the library’s firm of Danish architects.
Pass through the doors of the Sir Duncan Rice Library and the view is like nothing you have ever seen before. The ground floor consists of an enormous two-storey public space and café, but you are forgiven for overlooking that at first, as your attention will be immediately drawn to the swirling vortex of clean white lines that rise and rise above you, joining all eight levels of the library into one seamless, almost animate, flow from foundation to roof.
But do not let this magnificent feat of design distract you from what lies at the heart of this building – the library. With modern collections sprawling over seven different levels and an internationally important Special Collections Centre, the comprehensive assortment of books and manuscripts on display dates back as far as the third century. Add to that over a thousand spaces for group and individual study supported by state-of-the-art information technology, and it is no wonder that more than 700,000 people visit the Sir Duncan Rice Library each year.
With this building, the University of Aberdeen has sympathetically combined the past with the future of learning, in a way that hopefully ensures that institutions like libraries will be with us for a very
long time indeed. www.abdn.ac.uk