Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten



Dutch architects Mecanoo have unveiled their design for the new library in Birmingham, England.


Library of Birmingham will be built on Centenary Square and is due to open in 2013.


Renderings above are copyright Hayes Davidson.


Here's some info from Birmingham City Council:



Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, today unveiled the design concepts for the new £193 million Library of Birmingham by the internationally acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten.

The Library of Birmingham, opening in 2013, will occupy a prime site on Centenary Square, the city’s largest public square, acting as the flagship for the regeneration of Birmingham, and celebrating the ‘Global City with a Local Heart’.

Sited between the 1970s Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the 1930s Baskerville House, the new Library of Birmingham will “bring the spoken and written word together to inspire creativity and discovery.” The 31,000 sq metres building will provide 20% more space than the existing Birmingham Central Library and will be capable of taking up to 10,000 visitors a day.

The highly transparent glass building wrapped in a delicate metal filigree, is inspired by the rich history of Birmingham, with its tradition 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 panoramic views. At the summit, the rooftop rotunda will offer spectacular views over the entire city.

The interplay of overlapping rotundas inside the building will create constantly changing vistas as visitors ascend to the public levels, not only aiding navigation but also bringing light and ventilation throughout. The highest levels of energy efficiency will be achieved through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria and the use of sun shading and reflective materials.

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.

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.

The new Library of Birmingham will be a library designed to function around the rapidly developing digital technologies, creating new opportunities for learning and access, and providing a social heart for Birmingham’s diverse community.

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.

The launch of the design concepts for the Library of Birmingham marks the start of a major programme of public engagement and consultation, reaching out to Birmingham’s many communities. Construction work will start on site in 2010.

The Library of Birmingham development team is led on behalf of the City of Birmingham by Project Managers, Capita Symonds and will be built by Carillion.

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said today: “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.”

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.”

Brian Gambles, Head of Birmingham Library Service 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.”

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 Birmingham's unique cultural offer amongst the greatest in the world.”

Posted on Thursday April 2nd 2009 at 10:21 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • tommi

    oooops, i thought it’s juz another shopping mall. maybe that’s what the place wants, even their library would look like a massive retail store.

  • Wybie

    thas a huge library

  • Stanley.K

    …I thought it was a new LV store from the first glance

  • james

    how is placing a bunch of circles on a facade highly imaginative? select… crop.. and repeat. yay!

  • M

    why its so hard looking at the pattern without thinking of Louis?

  • dion

    is it another LV???

  • YuYu

    definitely ‘Library Vuitton’.

  • scott

    .. I thought is was a proposed remodel of the seattle public library at first glance


    Unfortunately, seems that Mecanoo’s imaginative design for TU Delft library didn’t have many daring successors. If it was white again, everyone would mention SANAA’s museum in NY I guess. I think the ‘hole’ on the ground could be an interesting element. In any case let’s wait for the full presentation to be revealed.

  • Wow !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Beyond my Imagination !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TT

    Why should they use the same facade as they did for the ICC competition…?!

    see :

  • joushua

    Most exciting thing since Titanic

  • Martin R

    This is the first I heard about this.. what happened to Richard Rodgers proposals for the other end of town?

    The detail in the facade has echo’s of Louis Kahn for me too. The massing and overall form is less happy though. Still, it looks to be a HUGE improvement over the exisiting crumbling concrete missile silo that is the current Central Library.

  • Adf

    Render and sketch such as sir Norman Foster….

  • archcritic


  • throstler

    As someone who lives in the tower pertruding just behind the rep, i am disgusted by the new design. I’ll be keeping the curtains closed! I don’t understand how on earth anyone thinks it’s an improvement on the Madin library. The design for the eastside was leagues ahead of this.

  • jake

    Horrid. Looks middle eastern.

  • windbag

    the only good thing about this project is that it will not spoil a beautiful square.

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    The one thing to say about the facade motif in this project is that it takes the first crack at embracing a motif from Islamlic architecture that I have ever seen in Britain (ready to stand corrected). At least for that it acknowledges that the country is no longer some Palladian dream turned sour or another Karim Rashid-esque toaster plopped down in the middle of London.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • Justin Groot

    The retail look of this reminds me of David Adjaye’s “Idea Store” designs, which intentionally associate an educational experience like visiting a library, with a retail experience.

    The sad truth is that people love shopping so much that in order to make them learn, we have to make libraries look like upscale designer clothes stores.

  • mekaratta

    Never thought that Birminham has a high demand of Luis Vuitton

  • christina

    Is it a Louis Vuitton Flagship Store?

  • I am from Birmingham and when i first saw the design I did not appreciate it at all but now it has grown on me.

    It is a fine piece of work and I cant wait to see how the buildings actually works.

  • seems like its meant to be in Dubai?

  • boppie

    What’s the deal with the pattern?
    They use an extremely similar pattern for the international crime court building in The Hague….

  • Vico

    It will be a box, with a pattern, and some stuff inside. That’s for sure.

  • Moxikito

    People chill out!
    It is just something that is ment to have books inside. As long as it ticks all the boxes in health and safety the brits are happy.

    Not the best they have done, but it is not made of red brick like the rest of the dull, ugly, grey england.

    That has got to be worth something!

    • felix

      how are red brick buildings grey? keep your bigoted views to yourself please, british people do care about good design.

  • this project means jobs! this is actually going to get built and people are going to be able to keep their houses. Probably the only major project to go up in the next few years – make the most of it haters!

    • felix

      a good design would provide just as many jobs

  • RS

    Whether you like this building or not the position is appalling. It blocks the front of Baskerville House next door which looks great across the open space which exists. It just looks crammed in! An alternative would be in place of the multi storey car park behind Baskerville, which could then be replaced below ground or above the nearby New St railway lines which is dead space. At least its now the right side of the City to be used.

  • ddragon

    it is scarily huge, but the Islamic detailing is gorgeous, reminds me of the Islamic Museum in Paris with its fantastic “shutter” design windows.. and don’t forget Birmingham is also “Shoppingham”!! our most iconic modern building to date is a department store!!! the new library will give it a run for its money.. is very exciting, which one will win? dull designer-logo gear or learning?? Birmingham will decide…..

  • pilaroida

    someone said that this reminded the shutters of Jean Nouvel’s Institute du Monde Arabe… To me this remind me lacing… “Lip my socks Mister Harry!” ;p

  • tom

    its an ok building, i dont think it deserves all this negative feedback though, thats for sure

  • James Last

    Sadly, this building will be to the detriment of the city of Birmingham. The current library, although large and overbearing, was at least an interesting design and just needed some TLC and the 70s rubbish removing from around it.

    I guarantee that Birmingham City Council will be selling off the Paradise area to developers who will occupy a large swathe of central Birmingham that is at present used by the people of the city.

    This present design incorporates prayer rooms, which were demanded by Muslims if the city, via a petition, so the new library will double as a semi-religious building, a big mistake IMO.

    The cladding is attractive, however the overall design is extremely unimaginative, and the shape mimics an early artists impression, I wonder if they will be paid handsomely by Mecanoo for ripping off their idea?

    The people of Birmingham deserve something far more futuristic and elegant, a real shame the Rodgers design was shelved for this blot.

  • Squidley Diddley Do

    Interesting comments everyone! I believe many people are seriously seriously missing the point with this building, and time will prove this (the 'haters' are gonna really 'like' this one). For one, it is evidently designed as engaging 'interactive architecture' which incorporates an ambitious use of underground space with different upper levels to experience also (public squares of this size equal lots of people that this building will 'draw in' very, very cleverly). Consider also just how the bold straight lines of the building are reverently juxtaposed by the softer circles in front – Wow! Clever and considered. I will go as far as suggesting that any current self declared 'haters' of this building will no doubt be totally impressed with the big street level glass facade when actually confronted with the reality of the thing (drawings don't deliver reality as well as … well, reality). Hats of to this one, its boldly Landmark and great for the City to have claim to the largest lending library and all that jazz. I can't wait until its finished and working as a piece of inclusive architecture everyone can love and be impressed by.

  • Steve

    Well, seeing it for real, it looks great!