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LSE's new 21st century Library and Research Laboratory opens its doors

A landmark building for London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science, opened its doors this spring.

The world class resource that is LSE's Library is now back once again in the stunningly-redesigned Lionel Robbins Building, named after the prestigious economist who studied, taught and was a governor of the School. Now the £30 million building is also the base for a new Research Laboratory incorporating five of the School's academic research centres.

Designed by architects Foster and Partners, work began on the project in September 1999. The historic shell of the building, based on Portugal Street alongside LSE's Aldwych campus, has been carefully preserved, cleaned and new windows installed.

Inside, the space has been completely transformed and a new floor added. The central feature of the building is the Michael Peacock atrium (named after the LSE alumnus and donor) and a spiral ramp stretching up five floors to an impressive glass dome.

Between 6 March and 25 May, more than four million printed items, including books, journals and archives, plus electronic resources, were moved back into the new Library from their 18-month temporary bases, the main one being Southampton Buildings, former home of the Patent Office Library and the Science Reference Information Service. LSE students, staff and 11,250 external users between them make almost one million visits to the Library every year.

While most of the building is Library space, the top two floors have been created as an innovative 'laboratory of the social sciences' - a place where academics can combine expertise and work together on major research projects.

A final innovation is a spectacular 'lozenge-shaped' footbridge, which links the Lionel Robbins Building with LSE's St Clement's building. The steel mainframe of the bridge was prefabricated off site, then lifted by crane into position during summer 2000.

Funding for the redevelopment was secured through a successful partnership of public and private sector financing. The Library project was partially funded by an £8 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England| and a £4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund| . The School received a £6.6 million award from the Economic and Social Research Council's| Joint Infrastructure Fund for the development of the Research Laboratory.

In addition to public funds, the School received generous support from its alumni, friends and foundations, including two leadership gifts of more than £1 million each from the Michael Peacock Charitable Foundation and an anonymous private donor. The generosity of the Trustees of the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Charitable Foundation provided a leadership gift of £1 million, while the Wolfson Foundation gave a significant grant of £500,000. A formal opening ceremony for the building is planned in winter 2001.

Librarian Jean Sykes said: 'This is such a wonderful 21st century environment in which to study and learn. It is another distinctive and imaginative Foster building, and one which LSE is very proud to have as a landmark for London, thanks to much support from students, staff, users and donors.'



  • Jean Sykes, Librarian and Director of Information Services, on 020 7955 7218.
  • Judith Higgin, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7060.
  • Katy Harris, Foster and Partners, on 020 7943 6266.

Pictures and site visits available. Call the Press Office or email to pressoffice@lse.ac.uk| for more information.


  • LSE was founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb as a specialist teaching and research centre for the social sciences. More than 7,300 undergraduate and postgraduate students, from some 130 countries worldwide, are based in 18 academic departments and more than 30 research centres or institutes.
  • LSE's Library, also known as the British Library of Political and Economic Science, was founded in 1896. The Lionel Robbins Building was originally built as a WH Smith warehouse in 1916. It was bought by LSE in 1978 with funds from government and private donations, converted into the main library and named after Lord Robbins (1898-1984) who taught at LSE from 1929 to 1961. However, its earlier heritage made its interior unsuitable as a 21st century library resource.
  • The Research Laboratory is home to the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion; the Centre for Economic Performance; the Centre for Research into Economics and Finance in Southern Africa; the Financial Markets Group; and STICERD - the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines.
  • The Library offers 490 IT workstations plus over 225 laptop drop in points and 1600 study places. Around 30 per cent of these study places have IT workstations, compared to the national HE library average of 17.5 per cent.

17 July 2001