Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, has unveiled the design concepts for the new £193 million Library of Birmingham
by the internationally acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten.
The Library of Birmingham will occupy a prime site on Centenary Square between the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) and Baskerville House and is a major flagship for the regeneration of the city which will create 250 new jobs including 25 apprenticeships.
Birmingham City Councils Employment Access Team will work with the contractor, Midlands-based Carillion, to ensure that local people most marginalised in the current labour market have access to these new job opportunities.
At 31,000 sq metres The Library of Birmingham which will be integrated with The REP at ground floor and mezzanine levels.
The highly transparent glass building is wrapped in a delicate metal filigree inspired by the citys rich traditions 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 spectacular views over the city.
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 supporting the development of learning and cultural activity for the city.
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.
Cllr Whitby said: 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.
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 Birminghams unique cultural offer amongst the greatest in the world.
The new building will be designed to function flexibly around rapidly developing new digital technologies, creating new opportunities for learning and access. It will provide increased space and improved climatic conditions for storage of the librarys world famous archives, collections of photography, and Early and Fine Printing including rare treasures such as the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623 and JJ Audubons Birds of America, one of the worlds largest books. Exhibition space will be dramatically increased to allow for improved public access to the archives and visiting exhibitions.
Brian Gambles, Assistant Director of Culture, Birmingham City Council 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.
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.
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. Construction work will start on site in 2010.
The citys aim is to create a welcoming and accessible building, suitable for users of all ages and interest and there will be an opportunity for local people to get involved with shaping how the new building will look and feel inside with a series of focus group sessions over the coming months.
Public consultation on the concept designs will run from mid-April through to mid-May with an exhibition at Central Library and online at www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraryofbirmingham
. There will be an opportunity for the public to have their say either in person, online or by pre-paid postcards.