Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

25 September 2020

Transforming the British Library

Smaller - Exterior-002 credit Sam LaneLast year, the British Library signed an agreement with SMBL Developments Ltd, a consortium led by Stanhope plc, to develop the 2.8 acre site to the north of our existing Grade I Listed building at St Pancras. The new development, which combines a 100,000 ft2 extension to the Library with 600,000 ft2 of commercial rental space, will create a global hub for research and innovation, including in data and life sciences.

This week, the Library and our development partners (SMBL) have signed an agreement with Transport for London (TfL) to design and deliver future Crossrail 2 infrastructure within the proposed scheme, concluding a complex negotiation and enabling the Library Extension project to move forward into a period of public consultation.

The extension is where our Living Knowledge vision will come to life. It will enable us to adapt and expand our site at St Pancras in order to meet and anticipate the needs of our growing audiences in research, learning, business, culture and within the local community. The development will therefore help sustain the Library for future generations to enjoy, enhancing the experience of our users and the local community while strengthening our impact as a global player in the knowledge economy.

It also builds on our position at the heart of the Knowledge Quarter, one of the greatest concentrations of knowledge-based endeavour anywhere in the world. Along with the Library extension, the site will include approximately 600,000 ft2 of commercial space which will comprise adaptable office space to accommodate businesses of all sizes. We expect this space to attract a range of organisations seeking to make their base within the Knowledge Quarter, adjoining the Francis Crick Institute and the Alan Turing Institute.  The building’s design will actively foster interaction between these different uses by blending research and commerce with the Library and the wider community.

Taken as a whole, this project, which is driven by an innovative public-private partnership, represents a unique opportunity to create the infrastructure and connectivity, currently scarce in central London, required by the knowledge sector, bringing with it major international investment in both the London and UK economies at a time of great economic uncertainty. 

In the coming weeks and months, SMBL and the Library will be engaging with local residents, organisations and other stakeholders on the development plans: seeking their views on how the project can deliver value for local people as well as ensuring its design and construction is sensitive to the needs of our neighbourhood.

Jerry Shillito

Head of Programme, St Pancras Transformed