A library refurbishment for generations

City of London School Library

A new library

Education & Research

Luke Hughes had the challenge of transforming the well-used but poorly organised student library at City of London School. Design objectives included not only making the library brighter and more comfortable for study, research and recreational reading, but also to offer more flexibility in the library’s teaching spaces. Equally, the library refurbishment offered the opportunity to open up some of the astonishing vistas across the Thames towards the iconic surrounding landmarks including Tate Modern, directly across the water.

Despite being located on the busiest corridor in the school, the library space was lost behind partition walls and unwelcoming fire doors. Visitors and students alike could easily walk past without realising what a valuable resource was there. In order to open up the space, the our design for the library refurbishment included replacing the partition wall with bespoke glass display cases, seamlessly allowing views into and through the library.

The display cases now showcase school archive material and student artworks, and bring striking views of the Thames deep into the school.


Within the library, the main reading areas had suffered from excessive solar gain, with the majority of the library furniture positioned along the large, south facing windows. The stunning views from the windows were also obscured by excessive clutter, creating dull spaces deeper within the library. Resolving these was central to our design of the library refurbishment.

By positioning the main body of working desks and bookshelves further into the library space, students are sheltered from uncomfortable heat and glare. This created space by the windows for walkways and seating areas, allowing students and staff to enjoy the cityscape.

Flexible furniture maximised the use of valuable space within the library. As a result of the library refurbishment different areas can now be reconfigured for academic or social use, meetings, informal lectures or talks and even dinner service, all with the backdrop of the Thames and London’s skyline.

A dedicated seminar room was created, which offers teaching staff a bookable space for group discussions, meetings or collaborative learning. With a new retractable glass partition, this facility can be used by two working groups simultaneously, allowing EPQ presentations and small groups to undertake collaborative work.


The custom academic reading desks are equipped with integrated reading lights, providing the students with a comfortable space for extended periods of private study. All power and data provision is incorporated into the design, and is concealed below cable flaps. All power sockets, data ports and charging points are readily changeable as future technological advances may require. Once an inefficient space, the library has now been transformed into the unmistakable heart of school life. It is now the central focus of academic pursuit, digital learning, group study and collaborative teaching, and expertly utilises adaptable, seamless design.

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