Dezeen Magazine

Exterior of Peckham Library

C20 campaigns for Peckham Library to be made UK's first 21st-century listed building

Architectural charity Twentieth Century Society has made a bid for architect Will Alsop's Peckham Library to become the first 21st-century building in the UK to receive protected status.

The Twentieth Century Society (C20) submitted an application to make Peckham Library a grade II*-listed building to protect it from plans to add "intrusive new rooftop plant equipment" to its roof.

Opened in 2000, Peckham Library was designed by Alsop's studio Alsop and Störmer and won the Stirling Prize the same year.

If C20's application is successful, it would become the UK's youngest listed building and the first building opened in the 21st century to be listed.

Peckham Library roof
C20 aims to list Peckham Library to protect its distinctive roofline. Photo by Kim Haddon

"Peckham Library radically redefined what a library was," C20 director Catherine Croft said.

"Putting accessibility and nurturing a community at the heart of its mission, with innovative and playful architecture that makes it a distinctive, much-loved landmark."

"Recently listed La Frégate is Alsop at his most frivolous, and while Peckham [Library] may look similarly light-hearted, it's an intensely serious building with bold social ambition, deliberately turning its back on the past," she continued.

"When Alsop collected the Stirling Prize for this building in 2000, he reputedly mothed 'Fuck the past!' at the TV cameras. Now, this provocation of history is history itself."

Interior of Peckham Library
Peckham Library's main reading room is on the fourth floor

C20 made the application after a planning application was submitted to add air source heat pumps to the building's roof, which it believes would "negatively impact on the significance" of the library.

The society is requesting that an alternative location should be found for the equipment.

"The library has a highly characterful roofscape which is most striking when experienced from longer-ranging viewpoints," said C20.

"The roofscape is a key contributor to the overall design of the building with its welcoming 'Library' sign and distinctive vermillion 'beret' above the central reading room pod, with domes flanking it to either side."

Set alongside a small square in Peckham, south London, the library has a distinctive form that looks like an inverted capital L.

The main reading room is located on the fourth floor 12 metres in the air and supported on stilts, with an information centre and reading room located on the ground and first floors.

One of Britain's best-known architects, Alsop passed away in 2018. His projects include the Sharp Centre for Design, Ontario College of Art & Design, Chips housing and the Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre. His La Frègate cafe in Jersey recently became the British Isles' "youngest listed building".

The photography is courtesy of All Design + Roderick Coyne unless stated otherwise.