Countdown to 'The Library of Birmingham' - Centenary Square ambitions

Following my earlier post, Countdown to 'The Library of Birmingham' - setting the scene, this post continues the countdown to the announcement of the design of the new Library of Birmingham with a look at the ambitions of the new library and it's location on Centenary Square.

As I concluded in the narrative of the saga getting to this stage, the current plans are for the empty plot, currently a car park, adjacent to Baskerville House to be the site of the new library. The building will merge with the REP creating a centre focussed on knowledge, learning and culture.

The site of the new library and council hoarding advertising the new Library of Birmingham opening 2013.

The decision by Capita Symonds, the project managers for the project, to maintain a single site as opposed to the earlier split site option led the council to launch an international design competition in 2007 for the project, International Birmingham library competition to be launched. Almost a year later in August 2008 Dutch firm Mecanoo beat competition from Foreign Office Architects, Foster + Partners, Hopkins, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Wilkinson Eyre to win the contract.

Mecanoo is led by Francine Houben, who was voted Dutch business woman of the year. Mecanoo is a well-known practice in Holland but is a newcomer to the UK. Mecanoo is an exciting choice for the library with the company describing how it likes to "create unforgettable collective spaces, inside and outside. We hope to create a people’s palace - warm and welcoming",

An example of Mecanoo's work is shown below in their work on Delft University of Technology. Images reproduced from (

The library site, shown below in an image reproduced from Birmingham City Council ( shows the chosen site of the new Library of Birmingham which will share it's building with the REP and will include a new medium-sized auditorium, meeting and conference rooms, cafe and restaurant facilities shared between the library and theatre and improvements to the REP's frontage.

The site contains links to the city's industrial heritage as I reported on the 22nd April 2008, Canalside Library, with the preliminary archaelogical investigations looking for the remains of an old canal wharf, Union Mill and the house of John Baskerville. Prior to construction a more detailed excavation will be undertaken to record the history of the site.


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