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idea store watney market

The Idea Story

The Idea

Idea Stores are more than just a library or a place of learning. As well as the traditional library service, they offer a wide range of adult education classes.

An Idea into reality

The Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, launched the Idea Stores concept in April 1999. Tower Hamlets unveiled its plans to invest £20 million in library and learning services. The idea became a reality in May 2002 when the first, prototype Idea Store opened at Bow.

Then it was:

  • Idea Store Chrisp Street in July 2004
  • Idea Store Whitechapel in September 2005
  • Idea Store Canary Wharf in March 2006
  • Idea Store Watney Market in May 2013
funders logos

Idea Store Funders

Idea Store buildings were funded by a wide range of different sources:

Idea Store Bow

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • UK Online
  • Bow People's Trust
  • The Big Lottery Fund (formerly the New Opportunities Fund)

Idea Store Chrisp Street

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • UK Online
  • Leaside Regeneration
  • Lloyds of London Charities Trust

Idea Store Whitechapel

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • Tower Hamlets College
  • UK Online
  • European Regional Development Fund
  • London Development Agency
  • Cityside Regeneration
  • Surestart
  • Sainsbury Families Charitable Trusts

Idea Store Canary Wharf

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • Canary Wharf Group
  • Learning and Skills Council
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Barclays
  • Tower Hamlets College

Idea Store Watney Market

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • Big Lottery Fund
idea store bow interior

Idea Store Design

The quality of design in Idea Stores plays a significant part in creating an accessible, attractive and contemporary space which encourages people to engage with library and learning services.

What the Papers Say

'Idea Store Chrisp Street...a sophisticated piece of architecture that does what the council asks, in an uncondescending and subtle way'
Deyan Sudjic, The Observer July 11, 2004 p12

' Idea Store in Whitechapel is rife with deliberate ambiguities of light, sight and space'
Jay Merrick, The Independent September 28, 2005 p48

' new building in Whitechapel is accessible, not patronising, crowd-pleasing but not dumb, glamorous but not glib'
Rowan Moore, The Evening Standard, September 23, 2005 p28


Idea Store Bow and Idea Store Watney Market - Bisset Adams
Idea Stores Chrisp Street and Whitechapel - Adjaye/Associates
Idea Store Canary Wharf - Dearle & Henderson

Detailed information

Idea Store Watney Market


Idea Store Bow - LGC Innovation of the Year 2003
Idea Store Bow - Civic Trust Award 2004 [Mention]
Idea Store Chrisp Street - RIBA London Award 2005
Idea Store Whitechapel - RIBA London Award 2006
Local Authority Award - The Academy for Sustainable Communities Award Winner 2007

Idea Store Strategy

Idea Store Strategy: Quick Guide
An overview of the Idea Store Strategy.

A Library and Lifelong Learning Development Strategy for Tower Hamlets - A joint accommodation strategy developed by the Customer Services and Education Directorates for the Arts, Leisure, Sports and Youth and Community Services Committees, April 1999.

Idea Store Strategy Review 2009
This document is the refreshed Idea Store Strategy for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It provides the overall strategic direction for the Council’s library, learning and information services over the coming ten years, and the key actions that will be undertaken to put this vision into effect.

Idea Store Whitechapel
Idea Store Bow