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Brecon County Library

A Grade II Listed Building in Brecon, Powys

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.9479 / 51°56'52"N

Longitude: -3.3921 / 3°23'31"W

OS Eastings: 304414

OS Northings: 228626

OS Grid: SO044286

Mapcode National: GBR YP.MF6Y

Mapcode Global: VH6BZ.592L

Entry Name: Brecon County Library

Listing Date: 4 July 2011

Last Amended: 4 July 2011

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 87631

Building Class: Civil

Location: At the upper end of Ship Street on a sloping site on the corner with Bell Lane and immediately down from the junction with Buckingham Place.

County: Powys

Town: Brecon

Community: Brecon (Aberhonddu)

Community: Brecon

Built-Up Area: Brecon

Traditional County: Brecknockshire

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Brecon

History

Constructed in 1969 and designed by the County Architects Department under the direction of County Architect JA McRobbie as the county library for Breconshire and was officially opened by The Prince of Wales on 23rd July 1969. It replaced a row of medieval buildings fronting directly onto Ship Street.

Brecon Library was constructed at a time of changing ideas and principles behind library design; before 1945 libraries were seen to be solid and ornate institutional buildings with external appearance and internal layout a product of traditional views on learning and education. In the post-war period and with the growing influence of Scandinavian design on architecture in general, libraries became influenced more by ideas of flexibility and openness in providing easy access to a variety of reading material in a way that traditional libraries with strict demarcation and layouts couldn't provide. At the same time libraries were designed to offer specialist children's departments with fittings scaled to fit, study rooms, newspaper rooms and a de-prioritising of reference sections. The overall design also had to be adaptable for new layouts and technologies and the overall success of a library was seen as dependent on the close cooperation of the architect and the librarian in achieving a blend of design ideas and functional requirements. In addition, new building materials and methods in the post war period made it possible to create new building forms, the increased use of columns and girders and prefabricated materials all making it possible to create large, well lit open plan buildings without great expense or monumental scale.

Brecon was designed to incorporate this new thinking on library design and to provide a variety of material for loan or reference as well as a venue for a variety of educational and cultural events. In addition it also fitted into a hierarchy of library facilities within the county, it was designed to support a county-wide library structure that included from 1948 14 part-time branch libraries and from 1959 a mobile library service, as well as libraries within each of the County's schools.

The appearance of the library at Brecon purposefully does not conform to the traditional Brecon street architecture of narrow fronted buildings of stucco and slate but has been designed as a modern building which is unobtrusive and in keeping with its location.

Exterior

Library. Reinforced concrete frame with waffle floor and roof slabs. The main elevations use a light sand coloured silica brick with a dark brick for the ground floors. Glazed panels and slate roofs.

Built along a sloping site the main elevation to Ship Street - 8 staggered and angled window bays with separating brick panels all over a ground floor of slender supporting piers set at an angle directly under the window bays. The angled window bays are designed to provide acoustic baffling from the traffic along Ship Street whilst still allowing good natural lighting to enter the building.

The main two upper floors are contained behind the angled window bays whilst the ground floor is differentiated by being slightly set back and appears more lightweight and hollow to enhance the impact of the main floors of the structure above. This is all given added emphasis by the sloping site and the elevated position. The main floor is accessed by a single storey entrance building attached to the right and the ground floor is accessed by a separate door to the left. The return elevation to the right is flat and has two large windows recessed slightly between brick panels to each corner. The attached small single storey entrance block is located up a series of short steps to the right and provides access through the end elevation into the main floor. A canopy projects forward over the main double glass entrance doors. The side elevation along Bell Lane repeats the staggered window bays but with 14 narrower bays. Again the ground floor is recessed and to the left are two wide doorways providing access to the garage.

The roof is formed by three large hipped roof dormers along the axis of Ship Street, slate covered but with large rooflights to the south (Ship Street) side providing down lighting through the interior of the building.

Interior

The main access on Ship Street leads into a small vestibule and then up a ramp into the main lending area on the first floor. The stairs to the second floor, simple square section treads on a steel frame with polished timber rails rises from the side of the ramp around an internal concrete pillar. On the rear side of this pillar a further straight flight drops to the ground floor. Within the NE corner of the library there is a further secondary service stair and lift providing access from the garage and plant areas within the ground floor through the main first floor to the second floor.

Originally the control desk for the library was positioned at the head of the ramp and just to the right side. In front and in the SW corner was the Junior Lending area and a small administration office, both partitioned off from the rest of the floor. The rest of the floor was evenly split between reference and lending sections with reading desk against the window bays along Bell Lane and a Periodicals section to the side of the stairs. Now, the control desk has been moved to the side and away from the end of the ramp, presumably to minimise the visual impact of the desk on visitors to the library but to maintain a degree of control and accessibility. The main floor retains the shelving in the former reference section but this is now used to display lending material, within the former lending section a central desk area has been installed which holds a number of computer terminals. The Junior Lending section has been enlarged and the partitions removed whilst the adjacent administration office has been removed entirely, the lines of the partitioning still visible in the flooring. Some of the original flooring materials survive including the slate to the access ramp and cork tiles throughout the main first floor. The slatted ceiling panels on the main first floor are probably original, as are the decorative moulded panels along the north wall.

To the first floor there are the main offices, workrooms, gallery space and stack rooms. Garaging and staff parking is provided within the ground floor or basement level accessed from the entrance on Bell Lane. Along the Ship Street side there is an open plan exhibition space.

Reasons for Listing

Included for its special architectural interest as a striking building of modern design and as a key well preserved example of a C20 library clearly displaying the philosophy behind its design.

It was designed as a County Headquarters and still displays the functions relating to this along with the provision of library facilities for the town. The stack rooms and workrooms along with the garaging all reflect the importance of this building as a County Library HQ and it survives as a good example of this type of building.

It also demonstrates a good architectural character of the 1960's, cleverly incorporating the design influences of the post war period with the functionality of a modern library within a historic context. The building maintains a rhythm and scale within its setting but also provides a well lit and spacious interior with additional design to limit the impact of external sound.

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