Crawshaw Architects transforms cow shed into Stanbridge Mill Library


London studio Crawshaw Architects has transformed a former cow shed in Dorset into a library and office, organised around a wooden, barrel-vaulted arcade that references the client’s collection of books on classical Palladian architecture.

The Stanbridge Mill Library, which has been shortlisted in the civic and cultural interiors category of Dezeen Awards 2022, occupies one of several outbuildings of a Georgian farmhouse on a grade II-listed farm.

Crawshaw Architects has overhauled a former cow shed in Dorset

The narrow, gabled brick shed was originally built to house Standbridge Mill Farm’s cows but had stood neglected for over forty years, used as storage for gardening equipment and farm machinery.

Looking to give the building a new purpose while maintaining its existing character, Crawshaw Architects made only small structural interventions, replacing two of its original roof trusses with portal frames that open up the interior.

Entrance to Stanbridge Mill Library
The studio has transformed it into a library and office

“While a decisive transformation of the interior was called for, we felt that the original use of the building needed to be part of the story,” explained the studio.

Stanbridge Mill Library’s focal point is a central “nave”, which is filled with seating areas covered by a wooden barrel vault and slotted between two narrow aisles lined by bookshelves. This plan references classical architectural forms, which are the focus of many of the client’s books.

Library with barrel-vaulted arcade
The Stanbridge Mill Library is organised around a barrel-vaulted arcade

Pale, solid oak has been used for the floor, shelving, storage and the central vault, half of which is covered with planks and the other half left open to allow in light from new skylights.

“The high nave and pair of aisles are in the form of a classical library, but are set out in the register of the original building using the materials and construction techniques of traditional farm carpentry and metalwork,” explained Crawshaw Architects.

White-walled room in Stanbridge Mill Library by Crawshaw Architects
The office occupies the northern end of the building

“The vault, columns, shelves, tables and seating are made of the same solid oak planks and sections, deliberately selected to show knots and natural blemishes,” the studio continued.

Desks are organised to take advantage of light from the windows and are illuminated at night by large pendants suspended from the vault.

The office space occupies the northern end of the building underneath an original roof truss, which is separated from the library by an arched glass door and windows that frame views through the nave and aisles.

To the south of Stanbridge Mill Library, a dog-leg in the plan is occupied by a small kitchen, positioned opposite a bathroom and a small lobby area.

Desks of wooden library in old barn
Pale solid oak has been used throughout

Stanbridge Mill Library features in the civic and cultural interior category of Dezeen Awards 2022 alongside the renovation of the Groote Museum in Amsterdam by Merk X.

Another project on the shortlist is the interior of F51 Skate Park in Folkestone by Hollaway Studio, which won the public vote for the same category.

The photography is by Ingrid Rasmussen.

Project credits:

Architect: Crawshaw Architects
Design team:
Pandora Dourmisi, Aidan Crawshaw
Structural engineer:
Hardman Structural Engineers
CanDo Constructions ltd

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