I’m a regular visitor to Birmingham (we have a number of clients based there). I rarely get the opportunity however to explore the city much beyond the confines of the particular company I’m visiting. On a recent trip, however, I was able to take time out to fulfil a desire I’ve harboured for some time and that was to take a look around the new Library of Birmingham.
Dubbed the ‘Bling Ring’ or “Vuitton Library” (for obvious reasons) the library or ‘hub’ as it is also known, which opened in late 2013 is stacked high over Centenary Square, and at the cost of £188m the library is the largest public building of its kind in Europe. It was designed by the Delft-based architects, Mecanoo – named, with a Dutch inflection, after Frank Hornby’s famous construction sets.
According to Francine Houben, founding partner of Mecanoo and the library’s lead designer: “The circles around the library represent people joining together, a bit like the Olympics logo, as well as representing something of Birmingham’s industrial history and its jewelry making, too. But mostly it’s the idea of people of all ages and cultures sharing a public building that is truly theirs.”
The building comprises of 9 floors, two of which have beautiful open air gardens which afford spectacular panoramic views of the city. The very top floor houses the ‘The Shakespeare Memorial Room’, designed in 1882 by John Henry Chamberlain for the first Central Library. When the old building was demolished in 1974 Chamberlain’s room was dismantled and later fitted into the new library complex. It houses Britain’s most important Shakespeare collection, and one of the two most important Shakespeare collections in the world. This juxtaposition of old and new seems a fitting way to ‘crown’ this architectural wonder.