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Library of Birmingham-macanoo

Mecanoo Architecten

Library of Birmingham-macanoo
By Caterina Testa -

One of the declared intentions of the new Library of Birmingham programme is to create a learning and knowledge centre serving a multi-ethnic, multicultural city, and to celebrate the transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy.
Mecanoo’s project also aims to restore consistency and identity to the immediate urban fabric. The design of the façade and the way public space has been made part of the new building are the result of careful study of the existing city layout, its history and materials.
What the architects have called a “red line” - the city’s busiest pedestrian route - links the main downtown features that lie in sequence: the Bullring Shopping Centre, New Street Station, Victoria Square and the canals. The library occupies a central plot on this route on Centenary Square between Baskerville House, the city’s original civic centre built in the 1930s, and the REP Theatre, a concrete 1960s construction. Location was therefore key to the project being also all about restoring place identity and historical continuity to the city centre, linking the existing buildings and giving meaning to the public space in front of the new library. To this end the Mecanoo project institutes a unified public space serving three distinct urban functions: monumental, cultural and entertainment. The library’s recessed ground floor and first-floor canopy create a broad covered passageway between Baskerville House and the REP Theatre. The sunken patio visible from the square evokes the many tunnels that criss-cross the city offering unusual views.
The glazed ground floor invites in passers-by and highlights the permeability between interiors and exteriors. Once inside, the staggered floors and three intersecting circular spaces, or rotundas, allow extensive views over the whole library.
The ground floor comprises three descending levels that gradually lead to the lower ground floor level, which...

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