Dreadnought Library Foyet. Photograph by Peter Cook
Dreadnought Library Entrance. Photograph by Peter Cook

Education Project

Dreadnought Library

Greenwich, London
University Of Greenwich
Dannatt, Johnson Architects


What is now the Dreadnought Library was designed as an Infirmary for Royal Navy sailors by James "Athenian" Stuart, Surveyor to the Royal Hospital, and built between 1764 and 1786. In the 19th century, it was leased by the Admiralty, and began to be used as a hospital for merchant seamen. It closed in 1986. The University of Greenwich was finally able to complete its purchase and start building in 1998

Building Structure

Despite the constraints of a listed building, the design team aimed at a sustainable design. The original form and structure were ideal for a naturally ventilated environment, using the heavy mass of the building as a thermal flywheel to limit temperatures in summer—just as the original designers in the 18th century had intended. They, however, had been forced to rely on intuition and tradition, rather than the more scientific methods of prediction we use today.


Services are simple and robust. Condensing boilers are installed, with an eye on minimising carbon dioxide production. A new connection to the East Greenwich sewer, which was laid through the Royal Naval College in 1864, was made. Structured wiring for the Internet age was installed. Internal offices are mechanically ventilated, and where the heat gain from electronic equipment is too great to be dealt with by softer techniques, cooling equipment is provided.