Monday, 10 March 2014

The Library of Birmingham

I have paid my first visit to the new Library of Birmingham. Externally, the building is very striking and eye catching: essentially, it comprises a stack of blue and gold blocks of diminishing size 'dressed' in a screen of interlocking circles; the whole is topped by a golden, cylindrical rotunda. The form is very simple but the colour and patterning give it a cheerful, if slightly glitzy, shimmer. A world away from the muscular Brutalism (which I love) of the 1970s Central Library it replaces. I was uncertain about the new building to begin with but have quickly come to think it rather wonderful.
Inside it is splendid! Blue railed escalators carry the visitor up into a sequence of exhilerating, book-stacked spaces culminating in the surprise of the Victorian, wood-panelled Shakespeare Memorial Room on the 9th floor. A series of terraces provide excellent views of the city and towards the old Central Library.
The Library of Birmingham was designed by Dutch architectural practice Mecanoo and opened on 3 September 2013 by Malala Yousafzai. Read architectural commentary by Rowan Moore and Jonathan Glancey.

The view from the new Library onto Centenary Square with the Hall of Memory in the foreground and the old Central Library (designed by John Madin and opened in 1974).

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