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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

Work / Architecture

Architecture: An eye-catching new library for the UK’s Second City

I never pass up an opportunity to praise the great city of Birmingham and see myself engaged in a crusade to protect it against the unfair barbs so casually and caustically lobbed at it. My job becomes even easier when the Venice of the Midlands (you heard!) unveils superb new buildings like the new Library of Birmingham designed by wonderfully-named Dutch firm Mecanoo Architects.

The staggered, four block structure creates a variety of terraces for al fresco bookwormery while the metal rings on the facade reference the city’s proud industrial heritage and its world-famous Jewellery Quarter.

Francine Houben who led the project for Mecanoo had never set foot in the Second City (pipe down Manchester) before 2008, and she said: "Our dream is to create a People’s Palace: inviting, welcoming, inspiring for all ages and backgrounds – a real public building that also creates an outdoor public space.

“It is intended to become the social heart of the city; a building connecting people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. The modern library is no longer solely the domain of the book – it is a place with all types of content and for all types of people.

“With its rotundas and its façade, the building is an ode to the circle: an archetypical form that embodies universality, infinity, unity and timelessness.”

Bombastic hometown pride aside, I genuinely think it looks brilliant; an architectural statement to rival the increasingly iconic Selfridges building which has become the symbol of the city.

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)

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Mecanoo Architects: Library of Birmingham (Photo by Christian Richter)