East Street Exchange

Testing new ideas for what libraries can offer

Following the ‘What Walworth Wants’ area strategy, We Made That were appointed to deliver a ‘catalyst project’ at East Street Library; to enhance its current offer, test new ideas and build momentum for an impending move to the Aylesbury Estate.

“We Made That has created the simplest of structures in one of London’s poorest boroughs to address the lack of enterprise infrastructure for residents.”
Veronica Simpson, VX Magazine

East Street Library - located at a significant civic corner in Southwark - is a well-used public library that was facing under-investment ahead of long-term relocation proposals. It was identified that much more could be achieved at the library with just a little more space. A newly opened extension – East Street Exchange – now allows the library to host a flexible range of new uses. It offers an affordable space for local businesses, entrepreneurs and community groups; provides a much-needed flexible space for groups in the area to meet (bookable even outside of normal library opening hours); and makes space for a homework club and peer-to-peer language assistance.

This extension demonstrates a willingness by the local authority to reinvigorate community spaces through intelligent interventions. The East Street Exchange unlocks a new lease of life for this vital community asset, especially in the context of wide-spread change planned in the area.

“A small but bold library revitalises a corner of southeast London”
Domus Magazine

The proportions and footprint of the new extension at the rear of the library create a distinct form change in comparison to the existing building. Bright anodised cladding and a perforate ‘turret’ make the extension a characterful and distinctive contribution to the neighbourhood.

The interiors of the extension are built to prioritise flexibility of use within the space. Bespoke furniture has been designed with the potential to be ‘flat packed’ and stowed away on pegboard walls, clearing the space for alternative set ups and functions. Refurbishment of the 'back of house’ facilities in the library now benefit all library users and out-of-hours users of the Exchange. Large new windows, glazed doors and an internal glazed screens maximise daylight within the Exchange, while the internal reconfiguration of the library moves shelving and obstructions away from windows, allowing in more light and making the space feel more generous.

Project Details

London Borough of Southwark

Completed 2018


Blueprint Awards: Best Small Project 2019 (Winner)
AJ Small Projects 2019 (Shortlisted)
Dezeen Awards Small Project 2019 (Longlist)


We Made That, Engineers HRW, OR Consulting, Stockdale, Maddison Graphic