A hole in one

Thursday 29 Aug 2013

Mecanoo and Buro Happold-designed Library of Birmingham to open 3 September

On Tuesday 3 September the doors will be thrown open to the long-awaited Library of Birmingham (UK). Designed by Mecanoo with Buro Happold, the publically-funded £188.8m library is 20% larger than its predecessor and will display 400,000 of the institution’s 1 million text collection to the public.

The exterior of the library has gained a lot of attention over the past months as construction has drawn to an end. Its filigree of metal circles is reminiscent of a Spirograph pattern and references the ‘interlocking stories of industrial heritage, jewellery, people and knowledge’ in the local area.

This deep blue and golden volume is cushioned by landscaped gardens which extend upwards into the building with public terraces and a ‘brown roof’ which includes rubble from the project's construction. These terraces and gardens are designed to encourage users to unwind, socialise and learn about horticulture.

In an age when the printed text is often overlooked in favour of digitalised materials, the Library of Birmingham has been very well received. Mecanoo and Buro Happold have also given the 31,000 sq m building a flexible edge including a studio theatre with 300 seats, a Discovery Gallery and an outdoor amphitheatre.

In total the library boasts 10 levels, centring on 4 levels of cantilevered balconies around a Book Rotunda. These balconies act as access points to generous book walls which will be continually monitored to ensure that the most popular books are kept on public display. The additional 600,000 volumes in the library’s possession will be retained in immense storage areas elsewhere in the building.

As part of the Library of Birmingham’s sustainability mission a cavernous void has been inserted through the bulk of the building, filtering natural light into the Book Rotunda. This lowers the building’s dependency on artificial lighting and also has a proven effect on the concentration and mood of a building’s users. The BREEAM Excellent form also uses low energy lighting systems, water conservation and a combined heat and power engine.

Rod Manson, Buro Happold partner and project principal for the Library of Birmingham told WAN: “Fusing together Mecanoo’s creativity with Buro Happold’s innovative engineering philosophies has enabled us to deliver this major new landmark for the city and people of Birmingham both in time and on budget.

“The culmination of a five year design and construction process, our integrated design approach has delivered a low energy and sustainable public building of the highest quality; as a practice it’s a building we are really proud of and rightly so.”   

WAN's Caroline Stephens visited the Library of Birmingham and will be posting her first-hand review shortly.

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