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First ‘super library’ opens in London as Southwark Council looks to the future

Published Monday, 28 November 2011

The opening of the library on Monday 28 November, including:
Two school children: Jesse Tu (left) and Reggie Blackley (right) from Bacon's College.
Front Row: 
Piers Gough, Architect at CZWG architects.
Cllr Peter John, Southwark Council Leader.

A brand new multi-million pound library has opened in Southwark which council bosses say is the shape of libraries to come.

Canada Water library, designed by world renowned architect Piers Gough, Partner CZWG architects in an inverted pyramid shape, is part of a major regeneration project in Rotherhithe, sitting at the centre of a new town plaza. 

The opening of this new library, at a cost of £14.1m, is at the heart of Southwark Council's investment in the libraries service, which is being protected despite cuts in central government funding.

In a first for London, visitors to the library will not only get their fix of some 40,000 books, music CDs & films but will also be able to:

  • Enjoy day and night time theatre performances, run by the Albany , Deptford's renowned performing arts venue, in the 150 seater theatre and culture space.
  • Have a coffee at the Waters Edge Café on the ground floor
  • Attend meetings at the same theatre space which converts into an open floor area of 150 m².
  • Take in an early evening class in one of the three separate learning spaces
  • Log on to free internet at one of the library's 79 computers
  • Use the tube station whose exit and entrance is incorporated into the building, checking real time train times on the library plasma screens
  • Access council services such as benefits and council tax help, from January
  • Take in amazing views of the historic Canada Water basin, which it overhangs

The library's wi-fi network, with nearly 30 laptops available for hire, reflects the growing trend towards the 'library as living room' ethos. Across Southwark's libraries members currently clock up more than 10,000 hours of internet use each month on their wi-fi network alone. 

Cllr Veronica Ward, cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport and the Olympics at Southwark Council, said: 

"I'm so proud to be unveiling this amazing building. It's an incredible, breath-taking use of space, both inside and out, and has all that you could need under one roof. You could find yourself learning in the morning, listening to a poetry performance at lunchtime, studying in the afternoon, watching first class theatre at night, and then relaxing in the cafe after that.  

We're definitely leading the way in London with our libraries - first the iconic Peckham Library, then our refit of John Harvard Library resulting in visitor number records beaten, and next year two more brand new libraries for the borough. 

And now with this new 'super' library, we aim to put Southwark on the map as a forward-thinking, pioneering borough with libraries right at our heart."

Cllr Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said: 

"Canada Water library truly is a library for the future. Designed to reflect the changing needs of library users, it is a wonderful and visionary statement of how Southwark values its libraries. I'm delighted to be part of the opening today - it's a terrific landmark, not only for Southwark but for the entire capital." 

Piers Gough, Partner CZWG architects, added:

"The building celebrates its brilliant location on a new public square, next to a bus and tube station and overlooking Canada Water basin. The library is an indoor public space open to everyone, where you find wonderful things you weren't necessarily looking for. It is a futuristic Pandora's box of possibilities." 

Barry Duckett, chair of the Rotherhithe Area Housing forum and Chair of the Canada Estate Tenants and Residents Association, said: 

"The area desperately needed a library that was more than just a library - it needed a hub for the community where young people can study and access computers, it needed a community space for meetings, and it needed an outlet for the arts. This library has got all of those and it far exceeded my expectations - I'm delighted by it."

Background Information

Canada Water

Canada Water library, which boasts floor space of 2678 square metres, is a new £14.1m state of the art library, designed by world renowned architect Piers Gough, partner CZWG architects, in an inverted pyramid shape. It is part of a major regeneration project in Rotherhithe, sitting at the centre of a new town plaza. Construction started in June 2009.  


  • 49 public access desktops
  • 30 public access laptops
  • 8 self service kiosks for issues/returns, payments for charges and fines, open shelf reservations
  • 2 Netloan kiosks - book PCs, check for available PCs, pay for and release printing
  • 3 printers/photocopiers


  • 40,000 books
  • 2,000 CDs
  • 2,500 DVDs, Blu Ray, PS3 games and Wii games

Southwark's libraries

Earlier in the year Southwark Council, which also runs the award running Peckham Library, agreed a serious of savings measures to keep all its libraries open. Despite deep cuts in Government funding, results from a five-month long council review conclude that none of the borough's 12 libraries need close. Instead council bosses have identified £397,000 worth of savings, which are to be made between 2012 and 2014. 

The council continues to buck the national trend with its successful library service.

Last year it saw a 14% increase in library visitors (topping two million) compared to the year before, and the number of items issued across its libraries last year was 1.39m, an increase of 9% on the previous year. Where nationally these figures are decreasing, here in Southwark the figures are on the rise.

CZWG Architects LLP

CZWG Architects LLP is a London-based practice with an international reputation for bold and imaginative architecture.  

The prolific output of CZWG's built work covers a broad spectrum of development and building types, including mixed use & residential, masterplanning & regeneration, shopping & leisure, education, community & healthcare and the workplace. Projects range in size from large scale urban regeneration projects to the individual house and exhibition design. 

For further information please visit the CZWG website.  

The Albany

The Albany is a vibrant, multi-use performing arts venue, with a strong focus on working with diverse, local communities. The Albany has re-established itself as a significant London arts venue and is building on its reputation as a home and seeding ground for creative development in the performing arts.  The Albany is a registered charity and limited company with an annual turnover of over £1.4 million.  

For further information please visit the Albany website

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