The Warburg Institute, 2023

a renaissance project to transform a historic, academic library

The Warburg Institute, founded by Aby Warburg in Hamburg in 1900, is one of the world’s leading centres for studying the interaction of ideas, images and society and has been part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London since 1944. Its open-stack Library, Photographic Collection and Archive serve as an engine for interdisciplinary research, postgraduate teaching and a prestigious events and publication programme. It is housed in a historic Charles Holden Building, as part of the University of London’s Bloomsbury campus.

The scheme comprises the refurbishment and extension of the building, and aims to protect and nurture the future life of the Institute, by facilitating of a more public-facing programme, in addition to addressing serious infrastructure issues. The Library will be expanded to allow for at least 20 years of growth, along with refurbished stacks and improved climate control. In addition, the Archive and Photographic Collection will be relocated into new, purpose-designed spaces, alongside bespoke labs for conservation and imaging. The ground floor will be opened up to create a new café and digital laboratory, allowing the Warburg to welcome in and educate a wider audience.

The new courtyard extension will house an 140 seat lecture theatre situated above a new reading room for the archive and photographic collection. These new spaces will benefit from generous amounts of natural light, from two double height top-lit lightwells. The proposed lecture theatre features an elliptical lantern on the soffit, which is also expressed externally and visible from the upper floors of the library. The ellipse was an extremely important symbol for Warburg, representing concepts of freedom, and continuous oscillation between thought and research.


the warburg institute, university of london

structural engineer

price & myers

services engineer

skelly & couch

cost consultant


ska assessor

jaw sustainability


gillieron scott acoustic design

image credits

Lloyd Sturdy, george allen