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John Rylands Library wins top awards

30 May 2008

The recently refurbished John Rylands Library has been given a prestigious award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Reading Room at the John Rylands Library
The Reading Room at the John Rylands Library

The RIBA success adds to the magnificent neo-gothic building's tally of awards since it reopened last September after a £17m transformation over three years.

The University of Manchester owned library was voted 'Best Iconic Building' in the 2007 Manchester Awards and Manchester Chamber of Commerce 'Building of the Year 2007'.

It also won two gold medals in the Roses Design Awards and a gold award from the Institute of Structural Engineers.

The Library was built in the 1890s by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John who was Manchester's most successful cotton tycoon.

It is a major visitor attraction, an internationally-renowned place for research and one of the most important rare book and manuscript libraries in the world.

By the late 1990s, the building had deteriorated structurally and began to cause concern for the condition of the collections held inside. The University also wanted to increase public access to the collections.

The Unlocking the Rylands project was launched to conserve the Grade I listed building and its collections and to improve physical access and facilities for visitors with the addition of a new entrance wing.

The upper floors of the new building house a purpose-built new Reading Room, a Conservation Studio and state of the art storage areas for the collections.

New exhibition areas display some of the Library's famous collections, including the St John Fragment, the oldest known surviving piece of the New Testament, dating from around 125AD.

Deputy librarian and Head of Special Collections Dr Stella Butler said: "We're absolutely delighted to receive this award from such a prestigious body.

"It's an acknowledgement of the investment we received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Union's Regional Development Fund as well as the work of the architects Austin-Smith:Lord/Lloyd Evans Prichard.

"The renovation has enabled The University of Manchester to make our treasures accessible to all and to house collections in the building created for them over a century ago."

RIBA annual awards are given for buildings that have high architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment in 14 regions across the country.

A regional jury visits shortlisted projects, talking to clients and users and assessing designs.

John Rylands Library is one of 11 award winners across the north west.

Notes for editors

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Jon Keighren
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The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8384
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