• 4317-054

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

Architecture

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

Posted by Rob Alderson,

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.

  • 4317-051

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

  • 4317-072

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

  • 4317-077

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

  • 4317-071

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

  • 4317-032

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

  • 4317-012

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

  • 4317-037

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

  • 4317-010

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

  • 4317-024

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

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Architecture View Archive

  1. List

    Having only once covered the work of Californian architect Michael Jantzen on the site, it seems about time we provided a little more context to his work and showed off one of his seminal pieces. The M-House is a portable modular system through which multiple iterations of a structure can be made. It consists of a series of rectangular panels, attached by hinges to a gridded frame, that can be moved and manipulated to serve a variety of functions, both structural and decorative. Each new structure can be built to unique specifications so that no M-House needs to look the same. Michael’s intention was that these buildings could serve as a holiday home or as an impressive complex of modular retreats in a single resort. So why hasn’t anyone built this resort yet? Better than Butlins.

  2. List-klmairbnb_02

    Being on a plane overnight can have its merits. Watching a tonne of terrible films, wearing strange towelling socks, having your dinner brought over by someone who’s paid to be lovely to you and wear lots of blusher. It can also have its oft-bemoaned downsides, unhappy and vocal children, being one; lack of sleep being another. However, a night on a plane has taken on something of a different dynamic thanks to a project that’s seen one KLM plane masquerading as a loft apartment, with interior designs by Dutch design consultancy TANK that belie its origins in favour of a very much homely approach.

  3. List

    In recent years the 2012 Olympic Torch, the UK government website and the Plumen lightbulb have scooped the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year title; last night Zaha Hadid’s Azerbajani cultural centre joined the illustrious list.

  4. Tagas_01-2

    Seeing as the new Soft-Hard Zinc House by Terunobu Fujimori has just opened near Tokyo, we decided that it would be a great idea to put together a list of our favourite Terunobu homes from the past few years. The teetering structures are packed with environmentally sensitive messages, and are the perfect breeding grounds for creative inspiration.

  5. List

    For centuries we have been fascinated by the architecture of power; indeed many of the world’s most visited tourist sites are structures from where religious, political and social power was once exercised. But what about the places which provide the backdrops to the decision-makers of today? Swiss photographer Luca Zanier’s ongoing project Corridors of Power takes us inside the very rooms where the contemporary power-brokers play, many of which seem straight out of central casting.

  6. List

    Step aside all ye pretenders of yore; it’s time to show you my new favourite website. English Heritage – the body charged with protecting, maintaining and promoting the UK’s historic buildings – has launched a new Tumblr on which they treat us to images from their incredible photographic archives. With more than seven million to choose from, the Tumblr takes a thematic approach to curation, showcasing several examples of the same thing each day (today is gravestones, yesterday was railway signal boxes).

  7. List

    Architect and designer Ana Varela was born and raised in Madrid, Spain, where she graduated from the Superior School of Architecture with a bachelors degree in 2007. Since then she’s led an impressive professional and academic career, directing Spanish design magazine Pasajes Diseño and pursuing a masters in Design for Luxury and Craftsmanship at ECAL in Lausanne. Now she teaches at ECAL and maintains a professional practice as an interior and product designer in Lausanne.

  8. List

    We’ve featured Brinkworth’s beautifully designed skate parks on the site before when they launched Nike’s BaySixty6, a community project under London’s Westway that invited people of all ages to pick up a deck and try their hand on the ramps. The initiative was such a success that Brinkworth have become something of an authority on skate park construction and have since been invited to create a temporary set-up at the Old Selfridges Hotel, located inside Selfridges department store.

  9. Terrazzo-list

    “Terrazzo is a composite material produced from layers of cement interspersed with chips of glass, marble, quartz, granite and other appropriate material. The invention of terrazzo can be traced to the 15th Century when Venetian artisans started to exploit construction residues to make highly resistant, low-cost surfaces principally used in flooring." Interested? Probably not. But the Terrazzo Project wants to change that.

  10. List

    It’s fair to say that we’re drawn to the weirder end of the architecture spectrum (giraffes sticking out of buildings and the like) so when I came across this installation in the grounds of the Portuguese presidential museum, my boat was well and truly floated. Super serious architecture, maybe not, but these red arches look for all the world like Microsoft Paint squiggles over photographs and that for me can only be a plus.

  11. List

    Even if you’ve royally had enough of looking at photographs of patterns – patterns on clothing, on walls, on anything – I’d hazard a guess that you’ll be sucked in by these from Alexandre Jacques. The architecture buff has created a series of stunning images of the façades of buildings, where the patterns they bear make them seem to be fading hazily into the distance, and then painstakingly documented all of them in fascinating detail on his brilliantly concise website, Architectural Pattern.

  12. List

    There’s a natural compunction to measure creatives by the choices they make in the exact fields in which they work. Where do chefs eat? What do authors read? And now where do architects live, which is the subject of a show planned for this year’s Milan Salone.

  13. List

    Japanese/Milanese design studio Nendo have been creating challenging products, buildings and experiential environments since 2003, led by the creative vision of Oki Sato. Their approach to design is always one of new and progressive thinking, taking products that we see as everyday due to their ubiquity and reevaluating our whole experience of using them. As a result these guys are highly sought-after; everyone wants of piece of their design philosophy.