Building Name – Library of Birmingham
Location – 309 Broad Street, Birmingham, West Midlands B1, UK
Owner – Birmingham City Council
Architect – Meccano (Ar. Francine Houben)
Contractor – Carillion Capita Symonds
Engineers – Buro Hapold
Year of Start – Jan 2010
Year of End – 03Sep2013
- After an international design competition, run by the Royal Institute of British Architects, a shortlist of seven architects was announced on 27 March 2008. They were chosen from a list of over 100 architects. The architects chosen were: Foreign Office Architects, Foster and Partners, Hopkins Architects, Mecanoo, OMA, Schmidt hammer lassen and Wilkinson Eyre.
- In early August 2008, Mecanoo and multi-discipline engineers, Buro Happold, were announced as the winner of the design competition.
- At 35,000 m², the LoB welcomed over 2.7 million visitors in the first twelve months.
- This is a Europe’s largest public library in Birmingham, England, with a sunken amphitheatre, rooftop gardens and a shimmering facade clad with interlocking metal rings.
- Sandwiched between a 1930s building and a 1960s theatre, the new Library of Birmingham fronts one of three piazzas that comprises Centenary Square.
- The building is made up of a stack of four rectangular volumes, which are staggered to create various canopies and terraces.
- Mecanoo designed the exterior of the building to reference the city’s jewellery quarter, adding a filigree pattern of metal rings over golden, silver and glass facades.
- Inside, these rings cast patterns of shadows onto the floors of the reading rooms in the middle levels of the building.
- A gently sloping floor allows the building to negotiate the level change from the front to the back of the site, but also leads visitors down to the fiction area at the back, then down to the children’s library and music section at the base of the building.
- “We needed many ground floors,” said Houben, “so we introduced a ground floor, a mezzanine, a mid-lower ground floor and a mid-mid-lower ground floor in the form of gently descending terraces.”
- The lowest level extends out beneath Centenary Square, where the architects have created a sunken circular courtyard that functions as an informal amphitheatre.
- The three main reading-room floors branch out from a staggered rotunda at the centre of the building, integrating rows of bookshelves and clusters of study spaces.
- There are also benches and stools lining the perimeter, offering views down the square below.
- Archives and research spaces occupy the levels above, while an oval space at the top of the structure houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room – dedicated to the library’s extensive collection of works by English playwright William Shakespeare. Dating back to 1882, the room has been relocated twice from former library buildings.
- This Victorian reading room is lined with wood from the first Birmingham Central Library. Its prominent position as a rooftop aerie makes this delicate room visible from the square.
- Elevators and escalators dynamically placed in the heart of the library forms connections between the eight circular spaces within the building. These rotundas play an important role not only in the routing through the library but also provide natural light and ventilation.
- Plant-filled terraces cover two of the rooftops, creating spaces for visitors to read and study outside.
- It 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 circular patio cut out of the square creates a protected outdoor space and invites daylight deep into the building.
- 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.