Library of Birmingham

ClientFrancine Houben
DesignerFrancine Houben
Prize2nd Place in Architecture Categories / Institutional
Project LinkView
Entry Description

The Library of Birmingham is the city’s new cultural heart, blending its character into its programming and design, and connecting people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. Designed to be an extension of the street, the library is a profoundly public experience blurring building and pedestrian path. Its cantilever is not only a large canopy that provides shelter at the common entrance of the library and the adjoining Repertory Theatre, but also forms a grand city balcony offering views of the square below. The library’s key public void, a circular patio recessed into the square, affords a glimpse of the inner library world, drawing people inside and inspiring them to embark on a journey of discovery. Moving from one floor to the next through interconnected rotundas that serve as the main vertical circulation route, visitors see ever changing vistas unfold through its delicate filigree skin of interlocking circles. The filigree screen is inspired by the artisan tradition of this once industrial city and plays out in shadows and reflections on the library’s walls and floors. A ‘people’s palace’, the Library of Birmingham is a center of learning, information and culture that helps to foster the city’s knowledge economy. Here architecture, urban design, and engineering work in concert: elevators and escalators placed dramatically in the rotundas of the library not only draw connections between the eight circular spaces within the building but they create a library experience that is socially vibrant, comfortable and inspiring. The 35,000m2 program, rated BREEAM Excellent, consists of an adult and children’s library, study spaces, music library, business and learning center, multimedia facilities, archives, the relocated 1882 Shakespeare Memorial Room, roof gardens and terraces, offices, gallery spaces, cafes and lounge area, new auditorium shared with integrated and refurbished Repertory Theatre, and a ‘back of house’ including offices, workshops and rehearsal studios.