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Epic Buildings: Birmingham Central Library

Once upon a time Birmingham Central Library, situated just above the inaccurately named “Paradise Forum” in the city centre looked like a multi-story car park. In 2013 the old library was closed and replaced with the stunning Library of Birmingham. The full rebuild swapped the old Brutalist eyesore for an absolute showstopper, described by the architect Francine Houben as a “people’s palace”.

Shiny & New

This new and (literally) shining building, decked out in gold and silver patterning, is the jewel in the crown of Birmingham City Council’s Redevelopment of Birmingham initiative. Costing £193 million to complete, the new library has been a huge investment in the city and its collection of rare archives, photographs and books.

Lots of claims have been made about this ornate, yet modern, building’s scale. Some have called it the largest library in the UK. Others claim that the Library of Birmingham is now the biggest public cultural space in Europe. Whatever the truth, this is a truly epic and monumental building. A great achievement for all who worked on its construction and a great of pride for the people of Birmingham.

Facts & Stats

  • The Library of Birmingham is now the biggest regional library in Europe
  • The predominantly steel and glass structure takes up 31,000 sq m
  • The building contains 24 kilometres of shelving
  • More than 1.5 million books are housed in the new library

Books for Good

The new library has already provided:

  • 308 jobs to the long-term unemployed
  • 82 apprenticeships for young people
  • 30 work placements for homeless individuals

Designed by Mecanoo

Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo were the minds behind the eye-popping design of the new library. Some visitors have described the building as looking like “birthday presents stacked on top of each other”, but Mecanoo’s vision was a bit more highbrow than that. Here’s what creator Francine Houben has to say on the matter:

Constructed by Carillion

The work on the ground was completed by Carillion who also worked closely with the City Council’s Employment Access team to help generate jobs and apprenticeships during the project. The company have picked up armfuls of awards for their work on the Library of Birmingham including the 2012 Guardian Sustainable Business Award for Social Impact and the 2012 National Skills Academy Awards.

What do you think of the new library? Is it a stunning piece of architecture or do you think it looks like an overdone gift box? Share your perspective with our readers below.