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BUILDING
 
 
Library of Birmingham
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DESIGNER
 
 
Mecanoo
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DESCRIPTION
 
About the Library of Birmingham
Mecanoo Library of BirminghamThe Library of Birmingham will be a major new cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries.

Mecanoo Library of BirminghamThe Library of Birmingham will provide a showcase for the city’s internationally important collections of archives, photography and rare books. New facilities including state-of-the-art gallery space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. It will also be home to a BFI Mediatheque, providing free access to the National Film Archive. Other facilities will include a new flexible studio theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre and other informal performance spaces, a recording studio, and dedicated spaces for children and teenagers. By harnessing new technology, everyone from Birmingham to Beijing, Bangalore and beyond will be able to access the Library of Birmingham’s world-class resources. More than three million visitors are expected each year, and millions more online.

Described by its architect Francine Houben as a ‘people’s palace’, the Library of Birmingham will be highly accessible and family-friendly. It will deliver excellent services through collaboration between the library, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP), partners and communities. It will provide a dynamic mix of events, activities and performance together with outstanding resources, exhibitions and access to expert help for learning, information and culture. As a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, entrepreneurship, creative expression, health information and much more, the Library of Birmingham will change people’s lives.
The Library of Birmingham: Architectural Approach
Introduction
The Library of Birmingham will occupy a key site in the heart of Birmingham. Located on the northern edge of Centenary Square, the city’s largest public square, the Library of Birmingham will stand between the 1970s Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the 1930s grand Baskerville House.
Three palazzos
Mecanoo Library of BirminghamKey to the Mecanoo design is the principle that the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and Baskerville House will together form an ensemble of three distinct building identities fronting Centenary Square. Baskerville House, a monumental limestone building designed in 1936, The REP, a concrete clad building designed in 1964, and the Library of Birmingham, designed in 2009, a transparent glass building wrapped in a delicate metal filigree, inspired by the rich and proud history of this former industrial city with a tradition of craftsmanship.

Mecanoo Library of BirminghamThese three complementary characters will define and influence the public space of Centenary Square on a more human and intimate scale. According to Mecanoo’s proposed design, Centenary Square will change into a public space with three different realms: monumental, cultural and entertainment. These three palazzos will be a part an urban narrative experience from different periods of Birmingham’s urban history. Pedestrians will walk along what Mecanoo calls ‘the red line’, the busiest pedestrian route of the city, which connects the Bullring, New Street Station, Victoria Square, Centenary Square, through the International Conference Centre towards the red and blue brick Canal district.
Canopy and Amphitheatre
Mecanoo Library of BirminghamA large canopy announces the new shared entrance to the Library and The REP while providing shelter below and above creating a public city balcony from which to watch events on the square. Additionally, a grand circular open-air amphitheatre creates a dramatic visual link between the library’s lower ground level and Centenary Square, and provides natural light and an outdoor space for staging events. Above the entrance canopy, the building volume steps respectfully away from Baskerville House. The volume reduces again higher up, this time stepping away from Cambridge Street and The REP to create space for a garden of the senses with panoramic views.
Experiential journey through rotundas
Mecanoo Library of BirminghamMecanoo introduces an experiential journey through the Library. Escalators and travelators dynamically placed in the heart of the building interconnect circular voids. These overlapping rotundas create constantly changing vistas as visitors ascend to the public levels while passing by other levels such as archives storage and staff areas. The rotundas not only provide way finding through sightlines but also natural light and ventilation. The changing atmospheres provide varied and multiple opportunities for unexpected collective encounters and diverse social and learning experiences.
Circles
Mecanoo Library of Birmingham
The circle is a leading theme for the Library of Birmingham; the amphitheatre, the patterned metal façade, the rotundas and the layout of the elevated gardens. As the one of the simplest and most fundamental forms known to man, the circle is 30 understood and recognised equally by someone coming from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia or the Americas. For Mecanoo the archetypal form of the circle embodies universality and timelessness. This new building symbolizes what Birmingham is: a global city with a local heart.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
The REP, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, with its unique and beautiful auditorium will be kept and renovated. The back of house area facing the City Centre Gardens will be demolished and updated with state of the art accommodations for loading and unloading. New workshops, staff accommodations and a shared 300-seat theatre and foyer space will be created for both The REP and the Library.
Cultural destination
The new library is designed to draw people from not only the local population, but from all over the world as visitors to Birmingham, a city reborn as a cultural destination. The Library of Birmingham is designed to be a place for the dissemination of ideas and information, a social heart of the city; a second home for Birmingham’s diverse community.
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VIDEO
 
 
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ECO-SUSTAINABILITY'
 
Mecanoo Library of BirminghamThe Library of Birmingham is a BREEAM excellent rated building and incorporates grey water systems and ground source heat pumps. Although the Library is a transparent building, it maintains energy efficiency through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria. Sun shading and reflective materials within the facades block the harsh rays of the sun during the height of afternoon while allowing natural daylight into the interiors. The ground floor benefits from the mass of the soil which provides buffering and insulation. The circular patio cut out of the square creates a protected outdoor space and invites daylight deep into the building. The building will incorporate a mixed mode and natural ventilation strategy. The façade will respond to external conditions and openings will allow fresh air intake and outflow. The addition of soft landscaped roof spaces will further enhance the immediate surrounding conditions.
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LOCATION
 
Continent
Europe
Nation
United Kingdom
State
England
Region
West Midlands
County
West Midlands
Metropolitan borough
Birmingham
Town
Birmingham
Address
Centenary Square
 
 
Website
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MAP
 
 

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TYPOLOGY
 
Main
ARCHITECTURE
Buildings for cultural activities
Libraries and media libraries
Additional
ARCHITECTURE
Education buildings
Children's museums and pedagogical spaces
Buildings for recreational activities
Theatres
Amphitheatres
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CHRONOLOGY
 
Project
2008 - 2009     project winner of competition
Realisation
2010 - 2013
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AWARDS
 
2014
Riba West Midlands Building of the Year Award
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BIBILIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES
 
 
Oriel Prizeman, "Literary giant", Architectural Review 1401, november 2013, pp. 54-65
Herbert Wright, "Robe and Crown", Blueprint 330, september/october 2013, pp. 56-72
Kirsten Hannema, "Facade screens", A10 new European architecture 46, july-august 2012, "Section" pp. 50-52
Oriel Prizeman, "Typology quarterly: Libraries", Architectural Review 1377, november 2011, pp. 83-95
"Library of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom", Architectural Review 1377, november 2011, pp. 87-89 (83-95)
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EXHIBITIONS
 
 
Mecanoo architecten: A People's Palace. Die Bibliothek von Birmingham und andere Bauten für die Öffentlichkeit / The Library of Birmingham and Other Buildings for the Public, Berlin, Aedes am Pfefferberg, 19 october / 27 november 2014
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CLIENT
 
 
Birmingham City Council
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AMOUNT
 
 
£ 193,000,000
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DIMENSIONAL
DATA
 
Surface
library sq.m. 35,000
Floors
9 levels above ground
1 level underground
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STRUCTURES
 
 
Buro Happold
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STAFF
 
Interior design
Merkx + Girod, Amsterdam
Theatre consultant
Theateradvies, Amsterdam
Gestione del progetto
Davis Langdon Schumann Smith, London
General contractor
Carillion  Building, West Midlands
Quantity surveyor
GVA Grimley Ltd., Birmingham
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ANNOTATIONS
 
 
Shortlisted competition:

  • Foster + Partners (UK)
  • FOA Foreign Office Architects (UK)
  • Hopkins Architects (UK)
  • Mecanoo (Netherlands)
  • OMA (Netherlands)
  • Schmidt Hammer Lassen (Denmark)
  • Wilkinson Eyre (UK)
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CREDITS
 
 
Photos © Christian Richters, Mecanoo architecten
Drawings © Mecanoo architecten
Text edited by Mecanoo architecten
Courtesy by Mecanoo architecten

Mecanoo architecten Birmingham Library


If you haven't already clicked on the photo strip at the top of the page, for the gallery of photos [48 images] and drawings [4 images], enter here
 
 
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