The Million Book Library – Celebrating 50 Years of Western Bank Library

19 October 2010 – 14 January 2011

In 1953 The University of Sheffield announced a national competition for a new master plan for the Western Bank site, in which a library capable of holding one million volumes was to hold pride of place.

Architects at the forefront of a new wave of Modernist architecture in Britain, Gollins Melvin Ward and Partners presented the winning competition entry, designing a library of pure cubic form inspired by one of the pioneering masters of Modern architecture, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

This stunning Modernist building was described by architecture historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as "the best modern building in Sheffield" and was opened in 1959 by one of the twentieth century´s most influential poets, the Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot.

Fifty years later and after a recent refurbishment, the Library still holds a dramatic presence on the Sheffield landscape. In celebration of this anniversary, The University of Sheffield Library presents an exhibition which charts the history of the site from its rural beginnings to the home of this magnificent Modernist building. Through photographs, architectural drawings and other original documents from the University and Library collections the display explores the Western Bank Library from concept, to construction and opening. Central to the display and to mark this special occasion is a commissioned replica model of the original 1953 architectural vision for the site, constructed by students Tom Hudson and Phil Etchells.

Curated by Jacky Hodgson, Head of Special Collections and Karen Middlemast of the University of Sheffield Library.

Special Advisor – Professor Peter Blundell Jones of the University of Sheffield, School of Architecture.

Western Bank Model 1960.002