Pioneering school Library receives planning permission, Woods Bagot

Acclaimed international architecture practice Woods Bagot has secured planning permission from Wiltshire Council for a new library building on behalf of St Mary’s School in Calne. St Mary’s Calne, an independent all girls’ boarding school founded in 1873, occupies a 25-acre site in the town and the new library will be located at the heart of the campus next to an existing and much-loved orchard. The result of close dialogue between Woods Bagot and St Mary’s students, the library will provide the school with a state-of-the-art, progressive learning environment for years to come.


The library is designed as a stand-alone pavilion modelled on an orangery, with an articulated timber roof structure supported on columns that floats over a more substantial masonry shell. Meanwhile, the roof forms an internal cluster of tree-like structures, bringing the orchard into the building and blurring the boundary between inside and outside spaces while at the same time using the surrounding enclosure to create the sense of a walled garden.

The western elevation of the library, which faces a service road, will be solid in order to mitigate noise from the access route. Conversely, the eastern elevation is to be glazed in order to maximise daylight and views across the orchard. The library entrance will be located in the centre of the solid wall, providing clear views on arrival of the internal space and the landscape beyond.

The layout of the internal space has also been well thought through to reflect the most forward-thinking ideas in education. St Mary’s Calne is at the forefront of girls’ education and has fully embraced student-centred learning and technology-rich and interactive learning experiences. As a result, the library will provide a learning environment that enables best practice teaching and learning and prepares students for tertiary education, with the design informed by input from the Headmistress, teachers, librarians and students alike.


Headmistress, Dr Felicia Kirk, commented: “The new library will be a lively academic hub of the school – a place which will instil a love of reading, research and learning for staff and pupils alike and will encourage exploration and the pursuit of knowledge, as well as collaboration and the sharing of ideas.”

Jonathan Leah, Principal at Woods Bagot, said: “Gaining planning permission for the new library is an important step towards delivering an inspirational building that will benefit students for decades to come. The design pays homage to the school’s past and is deeply respectful of its sensitive location. At the same time, however, the new library will be highly modern, providing a cutting-edge learning environment.”

St Mary’s was founded in 1873 by Canon John Duncan, the vicar of Calne. Duncan worked for over 30 years to establish the school as an outstanding girls’ school with an Anglican foundation. By 1923, there were 78 pupils and as the school increased in numbers new buildings were erected in the 1920s and 1930s. More new buildings were built in the 1950s and 1960s, a modern chapel was built in 1972, a theatre in 1990 and a new Sports Complex is due to open in April, 2018. At present, the school has around 350 girls aged 11 to 18 and is proud to be the top performing school in the South West (The Sunday Times Schools Guide, Parent Power 2018).

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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