The Hive, Worcester Library
In Brief

University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council
Construction value:
January 2012

The Hive is the successful culmination of a groundbreaking partnership between Worcester County Council and the University of Worcester to create a fully integrated public and university library. This is an idea completely new to the UK and highly innovative internationally. The Hive is also home to the county archives and record office, a local history centre, and the county’s archaeology service.

Our task was to design a truly accessible building that would not preclude any potential visitor or staff member using all the facilities. 

More than 18,000 people have signed up since its opening, marking a 500 per cent increase on the old Library. Book borrowing has been up by 10 percent, and the project has been awarded a BREEAM Outstanding rating.

The aspiration has always been for the facility to become a destination within the city and further afield.

The site is on the western fringe of Worcester city centre and lies within the regeneration area of St Clements’ Gate. This is an important zone, situated between the medieval centre and the riverside. In the second half of the twentieth century it became fragmented and lost any urban form. To the south of the site there is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which is retained and exploited as part of the site-wide historic interpretation. 

Design Approach

The roof is formed by a series of irregular laminated timber roof cones, which optimise natural lighting and ventilation throughout the structure. We have designed the central atrium’s double height, ash-lined interior to extend the roof’s timber vernacular into the heart of the building. A feature stair allows easy access to facilities across multiple levels. 

Working with artist Libby Lloyd, we developed a palette for The Hive that reflects colours typically used in the heyday of the Royal Worcester pottery. 

"To finish such a complex and outstanding building on time and on budget shows that by working together our industry can achieve some really great things."
Peter Parkes, Head of Property Services, Worcestershire County Council

The Hive was conceived as a ‘social landscape’ providing horizontal and vertical connections, allowing every user to move around the building freely. Access through the site is provided by a series of ramps that form an external street. This approach has allowed us to create step-free access.

The building’s form and its unique structure draw inspiration from the kilns of the historic Royal Worcester works and the undulating ridge of the Malvern Hills.

"The Hive is a stunning success. Britain's first university and public library is brilliant for our students while attracting and inspiring people throughout Worcestershire."
Prof. David Green, Vice-Chancellor

Through innovative parametric modelling developed in-house we were able to remove 250 tonnes of steel in the roof by replacing it with laminated timber. This saved 2,000 tonnes of CO2 compared with a concrete or steel alternative.

The building is cooled using water from the nearby River Severn, and a biomass boiler uses locally sourced woodchip to generate heat. By incorporating sustainable measures such as these, The Hive achieved an ‘A’ rating from the EPC, an award of Outstanding by BREEAM and excellent post occupancy performance.

Post Occupancy Evaluation
Good design, monitoring and control have ensured The Hive library in Worcester has comfortably beaten its energy targets.
CIBSE Journal, February 2017
Selected Awards

2016 SCONUL Library Design Awards: Libraries over 2,000m²
 RICS Awards (Regional East Midlands): Design and Innovation Award
2013 RICS Awards (Regional East Midlands): Community Benefit Award
2013 BCI Award: Sustainability Award 
2013 RIBA National Award
2013 RIBA Regional Sustainability Award
2013 Building Awards: Sustainability Project of the Year Award
2013 Civic Trust Award
2012 Partnerships Awards: Best Sustainability in a Project 
2009 Bentley Be Inspired: Innovation in Generative Design: First Prize


University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council
PFI Client:
Galliford Try Investments
Structural Engineer:
Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd/ Atelier One
M&E Engineer:
Max Fordham LLP
Planning Supervisor:
Arcadis AYH
Landscape Consultant:
Grant Associates
Galliford Try Construction
Cladding Consultant:
Montresor Partnership
Access Consultant:
All Clear Designs
Hufton+Crow, Ashley Mayes for WCC, WCC