The Idea Store, Whitechapel, London

David Adjaye
Date Built
321 Whitechapel Rd
On August 8, 2005, the Londonist website published an article announcing the closure of the Whitechapel Library after 113 years of service to the community.  The article pointed out that it was founded in 1892 by the Liberal MP J Passmore Edwards and, "... quickly garnered a reputation as 'the university of the ghetto'" having played an inspirational role in the development of a number of famous people including Jacob Bronowski, Isaac Rosenberg and Arnold Wesker.

The article went on to explain that, " ... The library’s place in the community is to be taken up by the planned Whitechapel Idea Store which will contain (among other things) 'more books, CDs and DVDs – over 17,000 new items as well as stock from the existing libraries, free internet access, a range of state-of-the-art learning spaces and classrooms, a creche for the children of learners, specialist spaces for teaching dance and complementary therapies'…”

The Whitechapel Idea Store is one of five in Tower Hamlets. the others being in Bow, Crisp Street Market, Canary Wharf and Whatney Market.  This one on the Whitechapel Road was designed by David Adjaye who says that, "... The Idea Stores are the product of a concept pioneered by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to improve access to a wide range of information and educational facilities.  To this end, the organisation of the interior is highly permeable and the circulation is organised as a ‘promendade architecturale’ linking the lower levels to the cafe on the top floor."  The context of the building, beside the bustling street market, influenced the design.  Adjaye's website adds that the building's, "... materiality is inspired by the nearby market stalls whose framed superstructures are draped in green and blue-striped sheets."

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