About Niall McLaughlin Architects

Niall McLaughlin Architects creates modern architecture of the highest caliber for a variety of clientele. The creative use of construction materials, the quality of light, and the interaction between the building and its surroundings are all things they value highly. These concerns are more significant to them than adhering to a specific aesthetic. They want each project to be a unique interpretation of the client, end users, site, brief, and financial constraints. With more than 30 years of experience and a wide spectrum of projects completed, they have built a solid reputation for producing intelligent, original, and beautifully designed architecture that delights clients and garners accolades.

The firm was established by Niall McLaughlin himself. In 1962, Niall McLaughlin was born in Geneva. He received his education in Dublin and attended University College Dublin from 1979 to 1984 to study architecture. After spending four years working for Scott Tallon Walker, he opened his own business in London in 1990. He creates structures for habitation, religious worship, education, culture, and health. He earned the RIBA Charles Jencks Award for Simultaneous Contribution to Theory and Practice in 2016 and the Young British Architect of the Year award in 1998. In 2019, Niall was chosen as a Royal Academician in the field of architecture and as an Aosdána Member for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Ireland. He received an Honorary MBE for Services to Architecture in 2020, and in 2022, he won the Stirling Prize.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet1
Niall McLaughlin_©https://www.niallmclaughlin.com/about/niall-mclaughlin/

Magdalene College Library

The RIBA Stirling Prize for 2022 has been awarded to a brick and timber library designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects for the University of Cambridge.

The New Library at Magdalene College is the 26th winner of the coveted award, which is the most important in UK architecture, and was praised by the committee as “solid and confident.”

Students at the 700-year-old University of Cambridge institution now have a new, 24-hour library that includes an archive and an art gallery thanks to the wonderfully crafted new building. The new library, located within the college grounds in Cambridge‘s city centre, expands the quadrangular arrangement of buildings and courts that have gradually grown from the monastic college site and replaces the small study areas of the nearby 17th century Grade I listed Pepys Library. In order to construct a structure that will endure the test of time, Niall McLaughlin Architects honours the rich local heritage by combining load-bearing brick, gabled pitched roofs, windows with tracery, and brick chimneys that animate the skyline.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet2
Magdalene College Library (Facade)_©Nick Kane

It skillfully realizes the architects’ goal of a structure that climbs up gradually into the light and contrasts openness with privacy. Visitors are greeted by a sophisticated brick façade and inviting wide wooden doors that lead into a tiered, light-filled interior. A central reading room with double height is reached through a triple-height entrance hall. The wooden floors and bookcases are supported by a regular grid of brick chimneys that also ventilate the structure by carrying warm air upward. Each group of four chimneys is separated by a sizable skylight with a vaulted lantern. Views of the college, gardens, and river may be seen from a connecting corridor above, which runs along the eastern side of the structure.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet3
Central Reading Room (Magdalene College Library)_©Nick Kane

The structure, according to RIBA President Simon Alford, is “the epitome of how to design for the long term” and provides colleges with “an ideal example to strive to.”

He continued. Niall McLaughlin Architects has met this issue with the highest expertise, care, and responsibility. “Building a new structure that will survive at least 400 years is a tremendous challenge.”

He defined the outcome  as a strong, self-assured, yet submissive new kid on the collegiate block.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet4
The brick and timber library forms part of the University of Cambridge_©Nick Kane

The vast double-height reading area, which is surrounded by wooden balconies, passively illuminated, and naturally ventilated, is one of the interior’s gridded structure’s highlights. 

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet5
It gets natural light._©Nick Kane

The new library, which includes an archive facility and a photo gallery, replaces the small and inadequately furnished facilities in the nearby Grade I listed Pepys Building.The new structure is situated in a historically significant area, along the wall separating the Fellows’ Garden from the Master’s Garden, which is enclosed but has more open space. As a result of the college site’s monastery beginnings, the quadrangular design of buildings and courts is extended by its placement.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet6
Structure._©Nick Kane

Users enter the library from Second Court through a small entryway and emerge outside under a large Yew tree. One can feel the river opening up at the border of the lawn from this shady area. The structure was intended to be a journey that ascended progressively toward the light. There would be chambers, galleries, and spots to sit and read on the way up. Views across the lawn and out toward the water would be available from the top. Depending on one’s preferences, designers aimed to create a number of positioning options. One can choose to take a seat in a large area, a compact space, or a tiny, intimate alcove.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet7
Site Plan._©Courtesy of Niall McLaughlin Architects

Harmony is created by playing a range of experiences off an underlying order in good architecture. The foundation of the new library is a logical latticework of connected components. The building’s floors and book stacks are supported by a regular grid of brick chimneys that also circulate warm air upward to provide ventilation. A roof lantern located between each set of four chimneys casts light downward into the spaces below, both light and air rising.

Magdalene College Library in Cambridge designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects wins the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize - Sheet8
Narrow Harmonious zones_©Nick Kane

A natural hierarchy is created by this regular arrangement, with narrow zones for circulation and vast zones for reading areas. To strengthen the organizational structure, a load-bearing brick vertical structure and a supporting spanning engineered timber horizontal structure are designated. This produces an underlying weave and weft pattern that we hope users of the building may intuitively understand.

Aesthetics_©Nick Kane

The new library’s structure and materials were chosen in response to its surroundings as well as the College’s need for a highly resilient and sustainable structure. The older college buildings have timber floors, gabled pitched roofs, and load-bearing masonry walls. The skyline is animated by brick chimneys, and the fenestration is highlighted by stone tracery. We made an effort to incorporate these architectural components into the new structure. For the window tracery, we chose lumber rather than stone, which will age over time to turn a silvery grey like the stone.

Materiality_©Nick Kane

In order to obtain a range of bricks that would complement the tapestry-like appearance of the earlier college buildings, architects painstakingly collaborated with the builders. Nevertheless, this is a contemporary structure that uses cutting-edge passive ventilation techniques to reduce energy consumption and engineered timber construction to lower carbon contained in its construction.

Materiality_©Nick Kane

The fourth project by Niall McLaughlin Architects to be nominated for the Stirling Prize—and the first to win it—is the New Library at Magdalene College. Prior projects that were shortlisted include the Sultan Nazrin Shah Center in 2018, Darbishire Place in 2015, and Bishop Edward King Chapel in 2013. The project is also the third building in Cambridge to win the award, after the Sainsbury Laboratory by Stanton Williams in 2012 and the Accordia housing development by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios in 2008. The project is also the first library to win the award since Alsop & Störmer’s Peckham Library won in 2000.

The architect of the winning studio, Niall McLaughlin, complimented Magdalene College for its aspiration and referred to the library as “a product of many hands and many minds.”

He claimed that the project’s beginning and management by the college “provided the chance for success.”

Online sources:


Available at:


Magdalene College Library / Niall McLaughlin Architects

Curated by Paula Pintos

Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/986471/new-library-magdalene-college-niall-mclaughlin-architects?ad_medium=office_landing&ad_name=article

The New Library, Magdalene College

RIBA Awards Jury Citation

Available at: https://www.architecture.com/awards-and-competitions-landing-page/awards/riba-regional-awards/riba-east-award-winners/2022/magdalene-college-library#  


Available at: https://www.niallmclaughlin.com/projects/the-new-library-magdalene-college/ 

The New Library at Magdalene College by Niall McLaughlin Architects wins 2022 Stirling Prize

By Lizzie Crook

Published on Oct 13, 2022

Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2022/10/13/new-library-magdalene-college-stirling-prize-2022/


An Architect/Designer who stands utmost to facilitate success and break the stereotypes that have been followed for a very long time in architecture. He believes every design must be conceived to add charm and enhance the surrounding's innate beauty with energy and resource efficiency as key driving factors.