SEA Design

The Plumstead Library

Wayfinding for a cultural destination with historic status

Scope
Identity
Wayfinding
Signage

Sector
Architecture & Property

Background
Plumstead Library is a striking turn-of-the-century building in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which has seen its use by the community diminish in recent years. Grade II listed in 2016 by the local council, the library has been given a transformational overhaul by architects Hawkins/Brown, to create a multi-functional building including library, gym and cafe. The project puts Plumstead Library back at the heart of its community, leading local regeneration and restoring its importance as a significant and well-used civic building.

Brief
Our brief was to create a coherent signage and identity system which would underline architectural ambitions for the library, and give it an enhanced civic presence. The building’s Grade II listing meant that any design solutions needed to be sympathetic to its context and heritage.

Solution
Our signage concept celebrates reading by showcasing type. Gill Sans, a classic humanist font associated with Penguin books, is used externally and internally for its simple legibility and to bring visual coherence to the library’s overall identity. A feature gate is inspired by typesetting, combining type and gridlines to celebrate the library’s origins. SEA worked closely with metal fabricators to create a striking element which would give the building more presence at street level, but which was also contextual, lightweight and sustainably manufactured.

Window manifestations feature the words of local schoolchildren asked about their thoughts on reading and libraries, the spaces between the letters creating filtered light inside, and a degree of privacy from the street. Internally, a clear wayfinding system simplifies the building’s multiple uses.

Type and signage is used to emphasise the role of the library as a new social destination, with an identity which engages the local community and creates a building of civic importance which is welcoming rather than stuffy.

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