While it might seem to be somewhat ironic that a new state-of-the-art modern building would be constructed in order to end up housing the remnants of the past, Birmingham’s new library is anything but satirical. In fact, this fantastic 10-story structure will soon officially be the largest public library in Europe, that is, when it opens on September 3rd of this year.
Architecturally speaking, the entire outer surface of the building is covered in a sort of “tree of life” / interlocking concentric circle-type design which is at once eye-catching as well as dazzling. Inside, the library also elicits pleasant aesthetic feelings with the effect that its outer adornments have on the light passing through the large windows which falls onto the interior in various elongated patterns.
Dutch architect Francine Houben had this to say about the project:
“I wanted to create a people’s palace, a building for Birmingham and an interpretation of Birmingham. I think of the building as an ode to the circle. We see the circle as a motif of the city. The facade recalls the industrial gasometers as well the history of the jewelry trade here.”
Library services assistant director, Brian Gambles seemed to hint at that the need for this new building with his comments as well. “The old building did a great job, but its time expired. It was a very tired building and not one that’s suitable for delivering a learning and cultural experience in the 21st century”, he stated. Mr. Gambles went on to add, “I do believe what we’ve got here is much more than books – it’s about archives, photography, people and how they learn and interact. We’ve got digital screens, digital display tables and iPads, but equally it doesn’t feel like you’re in an exclusively digital environment – the book rotunda screams “books”.
Even members of the full-time staff from the old library seem to be quite enthusiastic about this mammoth new structure. Dean Othman, who worked there for 10 years, even commented, “I’ve got no criticism of it all and this is more than just a library, it really is something else. The old building had no natural light so the most impressive thing about the new one is its big open space with huge floor to ceiling windows”.
All in all, it would seem that Birmingham residents and officials are quite enthusiastic about their nice, new facility. With a rotunda like that, who wouldn’t be?