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Paisley Central Library



Completed November 2023


£4.2 million


Renfrewshire Council


Scottish Government

The brief for Paisley Central Library was to create a dynamic, community focussed, new Central Library set within a challenging historic building at 22 High Street, Paisley. Collective Architecture began working on this exciting project in 2018. This commission built on an earlier feasibility study in 2016 by Collective that considered 4 potential sites before recommending 22 High Street as having the most potential.

This facility accommodates the library service previously located at Paisley Museum, where the vacated space now forms part of a major redevelopment to transform Paisley Museum into an world-class visitor destination. This project and the new Central Library (in addition to the Paisley Town Hall restoration and Collective’s Paisley: The Secret Collection, Renfrewshire’s accessible museum store that opened in 2017), are central to the Council’s strategic investment in cultural infrastructure within the town centre, intended to transform a declining High Street context into a vibrant cultural neighbourhood.

22 High Street was part of Paisley’s medieval centre, previously the site of the Semple Family’s town house which dates from the 17th century. The current building was constructed in 1876 and substantially modified in the 1950s. This location offered several challenges and opportunities. Being close to several other important civic buildings and having excellent public transport links the High Street location allowed for the design of a truly ‘public’ library which was open and welcoming to all. However, the building also presented some significant refurbishment challenges including removing extensive amounts of asbestos, upgrading the structure to take library loadings and achieving building control compliance with regards to fire escape.

Externally, the design aimed to ensure differentiation from the adjacent commercial units, and to signify this building as a destination. The re-design of the 2 storey ‘shop frontage’ strives to be distinct and iconic. This is achieved by a grid of sculptural, bent metal fins that sit in front of the curtain wall glazing system and have a folded form to echo the bending of a piece of paper to make an origami form or mark the place in a book. The façade is open and allows passersby to look into the library, with the hope that the space and services provided by the library become an extension of the public high street.

Internally, the complex building alterations create a welcoming, varied and light interior environment which provides a series of linked urban rooms within the constraints of the existing footprint. An urban foyer accessed from the High Street leads to secret rooms for children to play within and explore within the children’s library. A living room on the 1st floor houses the main library collection and leads to events rooms for meetings and performances. The 2nd floor reading room provides a quiet environment and leads to the study room gallery and an outdoor room providing an external, elevated garden. To ensure a consistent design approach throughout the building, Collective Architecture's commission has been extended to include the design of bespoke fixed furniture and the specification of loose furniture.

In additional to the extensive lending book stock, the building will provide excellent IT facilities including Wi-Fi and charging points to all areas, a dedicated IT room and numerous workbenches, tables, desks and nooks, distributed throughout, providing a range of spaces to access the PCs provided or to set up personal laptops.

To add an extra layer of visual interest, Collective collaborated with artist Claire Barclay to co-design the children’s library play structures and to create feature wall paintings.

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