Münster City Library: Peter Wilson of Bolles+Wilson on the role of libraries with Jonathan Hagos

In 1987, the city of Münster organised an architectural competition for the design of a new library, to commemorate the city’s 1200th anniversary and its gradual rebirth after wartime devastation. The competition was won by Peter Wilson and Julia Bolles, a young London-based practice of two, who had graduated from and were teaching at the Architectural Association. The Münster City Library was the duo’s first major public commission, and became a testbed for the architectural ideas they had developed at the AA. The practice, now based in Münster, has since gone on to design libraries, theatres, museums and public institutions all over the world.

The library is divided into two wings above ground level, creating a new urban street orientated towards the 15th century Lamberti Church. Inside, Bolles and Wilson have designed a series of distinct spatial conditions; a vast reading room centred around a communal table, warm timber-lined nooks and informal spaces for new media. As one of the last remaining typologies not defined by commercial interests, libraries demonstrate the true potential of civic space, free spaces with no restrictions on access or dwell time. In this conversation chaired by Jonathan Hagos, Peter Wilson of Bolles + Wilson’s reflects on the practice’s design for library, and the fundamental role that libraries play in the city.

Jonathan Hagos is an architect, academic and art director, co-founding the multi-disciplinary practice Freehaus in 2012. The practice is currently designing The Africa Centre’s new headquarters, a retro-fit in Southwark supported by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. Hagos has taught at Oxford Brookes, later at the University of Greenwich and now at London Metropolitan University. In 2014, he worked as the art director for the award-winning film Simshar, which recounted the story of a Maltese family stranded at sea with a rescued group of African migrants. He also sits on the Hackney Design Regeneration Advisory Group and was named as one of the Architects’ Journal’s 40 under 40 in 2020.

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