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Library of Birmingham : Architecture News

Key Cultural Development, Midlands, England, UK – design by Mecanoo architecten

2 Apr 2009

New Birmingham Library – Planning Submission

Design: Mecanoo

A detailed planning application for the new £193m Library of Birmingham has been submitted to the local planning authority, with a statutory public consultation period on the plans to begin later this week.

The planning application shows that the design has evolved, but not significantly changed since the concept design released by Dutch architects Mecanoo in April 2009. The height has been reduced by one level in response to consultation and other elements of the design have been refined, such as the amphitheatre and its relationship between the library and Centenary Square.

The detailed design also confirms that the historic Shakespeare Memorial Room will be located in the roof level rotunda. Further detailed design work is still continuing, with the completion of Stage D design scheduled for September.

The new library will be spread over ten storeys – nine above ground and a lower ground level opening out onto an amphitheatre set into Centenary Square.

The outside of the building will feature an intricately patterned steel façade positioned in front of high performance glazed panels. Publicly accessible terraces at the third and seventh floors will provide outdoor green spaces for a range of activities, including quiet areas to read and relax with views over the city, while a ‘brown roof’ will provide a natural habitat for wildlife.

At the top of the building, the aluminium-clad rotunda will have a glass facade offering views south across Centenary Square and the city beyond. It will also house ‘The Shakespeare Memorial Room’, providing a unique venue for small events and receptions featuring original 19th Century fixtures, fittings and materials.

Featuring greywater harvesting, sophisticated energy and lighting management systems and connected to the Broad Street Combined Heat and Power Network the building has been designed to achieve an ‘excellent’ BREEAM Rating for sustainability.

2 Apr 2009

New Birmingham Library Designs Unveiled

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, today unveiled the design concepts for the new £193 million Library of Birmingham by the internationally acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten.

Concept Design for Library of Birmingham, April 2009
Architect: Mecanoo
Birmingham Library Building Birmingham Library design Birmingham Library proposal
images Courtesy of Birmingham City Council © Hayes Davidson

The Library of Birmingham, opening in 2013, will occupy a prime site on Centenary Square, the city’s largest public square, acting as the flagship for the regeneration of Birmingham, and celebrating the ‘Global City with a Local Heart’.

Sited between the 1970s Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the 1930s Baskerville House, the new Library of Birmingham will “bring the spoken and written word together to inspire creativity and discovery.” The 31,000 sq metres building will provide 20% more space than the existing Birmingham Central Library and will be capable of taking up to 10,000 visitors a day.

The highly transparent glass building wrapped in a delicate metal filigree, is inspired by the rich history of Birmingham, with its tradition of craftsmanship and industry. The generous shared entrance to the Library and the REP will be sheltered below a public balcony, creating a magnificent space to watch events in the square.

Above the balcony, the building volume steps away, creating a second open-air space, an elevated garden with panoramic views. At the summit, the rooftop rotunda will offer spectacular views over the entire city.

The interplay of overlapping rotundas inside the building will create constantly changing vistas as visitors ascend to the public levels, not only aiding navigation but also bringing light and ventilation throughout. The highest levels of energy efficiency will be achieved through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria and the use of sun shading and reflective materials.

A grand circular open-air amphitheatre in front of the building will create a dramatic visual link between the Library at Lower Ground Level and Centenary Square, providing natural light and a sheltered outdoor space for staging events.

The REP will be renovated and equipped with updated back of house facilities, new workshops and new staff accommodation. In addition, brand new foyers and a new 300 seat studio theatre will be created to be shared between the REP and the Library.

The new Library of Birmingham will be a library designed to function around the rapidly developing digital technologies, creating new opportunities for learning and access, and providing a social heart for Birmingham’s diverse community.

The Library of Birmingham development is a flagship project of the Big City Plan, focusing on the regeneration of the city, the most far-reaching city centre development project ever undertaken in the UK. The Big City Plan will drive forward the next 20 years of development in central Birmingham to revive and open up whole areas of the city with a £17 billion investment and the aim of creating 43,000 jobs for Birmingham people.

The launch of the design concepts for the Library of Birmingham marks the start of a major programme of public engagement and consultation, reaching out to Birmingham’s many communities. Construction work will start on site in 2010.

The Library of Birmingham development team is led on behalf of the City of Birmingham by Project Managers, Capita Symonds and will be built by Carillion.

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said today: “Despite the global economic slowdown, demand for and confidence in Birmingham has never been higher. The new Library of Birmingham will be an iconic landmark, and a testament to the role Birmingham will play in the 21st century as a truly global city.

The new designs are further evidence of our intention to attract world-class architects to work with the City, and these designs support our ambition to create a building which will bring people together, nurture creativity, allow far greater access to our cultural heritage, and act as a focal hub within the city and the region.”

Francine Houben, Founding Partner of Mecanoo Architecten, said: “I am inspired by the energy of this great city. I hope that the adventure of going through the building will draw many more people towards the joy of learning and reading, and even just to simply experience the pleasure of social interaction that a great public space can provide.”

Brian Gambles, Head of Birmingham Library Service said: “Libraries represent the memory and identity of a city. Today, as a global city, Birmingham needs its new library to encapsulate its soul, its optimism and its rich culture and to meet the demands of a progressive library service for all.”

Stuart Rogers, Executive Director, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, said: “We are delighted with the highly imaginative way that Mecanoo are planning to link the distinctive and much-loved Birmingham Repertory Theatre with the new Library of Birmingham. The new facilities will allow both of us to work creatively together and thereby keep Birmingham’s unique cultural offer amongst the greatest in the world.”

Birmingham Library Building Design image / information received 020409

Birmingham Library main page with current images + design news

Birmingham Library Competition Competition Shortlist – 7 practices, Mar 2008


Delft, 5 Aug 2008

Mecanoo selected as architects of new Library of Birmingham

Announced August 5th, 2008, the internationally acclaimed Dutch architects, Mecanoo architecten, led by Francine Houben, have been selected to design the new £193 million Library of Birmingham. The new 30,000 m2 Library will be developed on a prime site on Centenary Square, and is scheduled to open in 2013, promising to be the largest library in Europe.

Mecanoo, founded in 1984 by Francine Houben, is based in Delft in the Netherlands. The award-winning work of Mecanoo combines architecture, urban planning, and landscape design. Among their projects are: the La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre, Lleida (2008), Business Innovation Centre FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegen (2007), Montevideo in Rotterdam (2005), the Library for the Technical University of Delft (1998) the Palace of Justice, Córdoba (2007-2011), the National Kaohsiung Performing Arts Center, Taiwan (2007-2012), and the Municipal Offices and Train Station, Delft (2006-2014).

Francine Houben, founding partner and Creative Director of Mecanoo, is Professor at the Delft University of Technology and was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University in 2007. She was Director of the first International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam (2003). In 2008 she was awarded the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award.

Francine Houben said today: “We are excited to have been selected to design a Library integrated with the famous Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which will become the social heart of the city. Mecanoo loves to create unforgettable collective spaces, inside and outside. We hope to create a people’s palace, warm and welcoming.”

Councillor Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With their creativity, vision, experience and international pedigree I believe Mecanoo are the perfect choice to help us deliver an innovative world-class building which the people of Birmingham can be truly proud of. Their enthusiasm and understanding for the project, coupled with a track record for delivering visually exciting yet practicable and user friendly buildings, really made them stand out.”

Mecanoo was selected from an international shortlist, which included Foster + Partners, Foreign Office Architects, Hopkins Architects, OMA, Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Wilkinson Eyre.

The new development will bring together the Library of Birmingham and the Birmingham Rep (repeated) to create a major cultural centre for the city. The development will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the busiest public library in Europe, a new frontage for the theatre and a number of shared amenities, including a new medium sized auditorium.

The Mecanoo Library of Birmingham team comprises: interior architects Merkx+Girod of Amsterdam, engineering firm Buro Happold of Birmingham, design manager Davis Langdon Schuman Smith of London en theatre consultants Theateradvies of Amsterdam.

Technical University Delft
photograph: Library Technical University of Delft by Christian Richters


Location: Birmingham, West Midlands B3 3HQ, UK

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