Library central to campus
Three years on from the first announcement of the University of Birmingham campus redevelopment and plan's for a new main library, work looks set to begin on the new Main Library development soon, https://twitter.com/timcornbill/status/430782809100550144, after outline planning permission was secured in August 2012. The library plans were announced in 2011, Campus clears way for 21st Century future for University of Birmingham, as part of a campus development plan that will see a new sports centre constructed near to the South Gate entrance to the University and the removal of the current Main Library to create a new green square. The plans for the new green square, Campus clears way for 21st Century future for University of Birmingham II, also follow the completion of Chancellor's Court with the Bramall Music building, Sounding the changes.
The new library will transform our already enviable campus, providing the opportunity to create an expanded 'Green Heart' from Chancellor's Court stretching to the north of the current library space. Our campus is one of the most distinctive features of our University and one of which our students, staff, and alumni are rightly proud. The new library project will reinvigorate this stimulating environment for work and study.http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/alumni/giving/circlesofinfluence/libraryNew.aspx
The removal of the current library addresses will address what Foster notes in his 2003 Pevsner guide to Birmingham, that "it blocks the formal avenue on the axis of Chancellor's Court, to the former main entrance in Pritchatt's Road".
Birmingham architect William Haywood’s early 20th century vision of a “green heart” will finally be achieved when the existing library is demolished and the area landscaped to create a green space at the university’s centre.The idea of north to south access is one of the benefits of an ambitious project that will see the creation of a host of new facilities, including the library, a sports centre with a 50-metre swimming pool, a student hub, and a new car park.Behind the plans, part of a five-year project, is a desire to ensure the university is among the very best, not just nationally but internationally.http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/news/local-news/university-birminghams-campus-plan-draws-3906197
Associated Architects who have designed the new library conducted a feasibility study in 2009 that concluded that a new building would be better to serve the university's needs rather than a refurbishment of the 1950s library, http://www.associated-architects.co.uk/projects/education/universities/main-campus-library/. The new library allows for the development of a 'green heart to the campus' but also allows for the library itself to handle the change in learning and use of online resources and studying. The new library also allows for the display of the library's diverse collections in a cultural gateway. The University of Birmingham hosts significant numbers of collections of valuable works with the Cadbury Research Library hosting the Chamberlain Papers, Noel Coward Collection and 200,000 rare printed books for example, http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/culture/special-collections-brochure.pdf
An interesting history of the library can be found in the University produced "A Centennial History of the Library of the University of Birmingham 1880 - 1995" 2000 by James Thompson which notes the precursor of the library in the library of Mason College which opened in 1880 and which when transferred into the new University of Birmingham in 1900 already provided a well established library. The book notes the changing fortunes and move from the city centre campus to the Edgbaston campus and the creation of a new main library.
A brief summary of the history is reproduced below from the planning application, 2012/02047/PA.
The new library has a colonnaded front to the new green square and is bisected internally by a central street running north-south.
16,000sq.m of floor space is arranged over six levels with a series of lightwells running through the building. A café and new exhibition/events space to showcase research at the University are located on the Ground floor. Energy use will be reduced by around 50% helping the University achieve its 20% CO2 reduction by 2020.The new building has a contextual modern aesthetic, a contemporary but respectful neighbour to the listed Aston Webb buildings. A high level of glazing maximises views in and out, achieving optimum day-lighting to quiet perimeter study areas. Windows are set within a regular framework of stone with brick infill. Glass louvres provide solar shading and add a layer of detail to the elevations. Other materials are aluminium and zinc cladding. The importance of the corner beside the University Centre is emphasised by angled stone columns with brick linings orientated to the landmark University clock tower.