The Laidlaw Library atrium

- Higher Education

The Laidlaw Library: A landmark library on a challenging site

University of Leeds

Higher Education

Landscape Design


Joe Morgan
Karen Turnbull


A new library is always a milestone in the life of a university. The Laidlaw Library was no exception: nestled between two Grade II listed churches in a busy, city-centre campus, the site needed to house 4000m2 of learning and library resources, with 1000 reader seats and 6,800 linear metres of book stock.

We knew that we would have to look carefully at the changing role of university libraries, creating a building which tapped into new technologies and ways to study, and which was flexible enough to keep up as that role changed further. The University was also keen that the Laidlaw Library set a new bar for sustainability on campus.

Approach + Solution

The library sits at the “front door” of the University, and we designed it as a sensitive, creative response to its surroundings. Taking inspiration from the nearby Parkinson Building, we used Portland stone in a contemporary style.

Inside, we designed for student-controlled learning, blending new ICT facilities with more traditional spaces.

Students can choose (and change) their working patterns, and the wide range of study spaces on offer includes quiet study rooms, training rooms, and a bustling café. We achieved BREEAM “Excellent” with a robust low-energy strategy, as well as new cycle racks and a mixed-species green roof.

The Laidlaw Library is a 21st-century landmark for the University of Leeds. Winning a RIBA National Award, it has been praised by visitors, students, staff, and residents of Leeds for its contribution to the city.

Tour of The Laidlaw Library

CGI fly-through of this landmark library for University of Leeds.

“It is a most beautiful contemporary building. Glass, Portland stone, columns, space, echoes of Athens and the stamp of the 21st century.”