Mecanoo has designed the Library of Birmingham as a centre for learning, information and culture uniting people of all ages and backgrounds. Situated in Centenary Square in Birmingham, England, the library has transformed the largest public square in the city into one with three distinct realms: monumental, cultural and entertainment.
Mecanoo has envisioned the library as an extension of the street with a prominent entrance that is sheltered by the cantilever of the building. The library shares the spacious entrance and foyer, designed as a street, as well as a new 300-seat auditorium with the refurbished Repertory Theater.
Visitors move from one floor to the next through interconnected and overlapping rotundas that serve as the main vertical circulation route while providing natural light and ventilation.
The intricate filigree facade creates stunning interior vistas. Inspired by the artisan tradition of Birmingham’s industrial history, the filigree skin of interlocking metal circles allow natural light in and create a stunning play of light and shadow on the porcelain tiled floors.
At the heart of the library, the Book Rotunda is ringed by four levels of cantilevered circular balconies spread over three floors, each providing access to a different part of the shelves that comprise the book wall. Two garden terraces, the Discovery Garden on the third and the Secret Garden on the seventh floor, provide tranquil green space high above the busy streets in the heart of the city centre, a location for visitors to unwind, socialize, and learn. The circular patio cut out of Centenary creates a protected outdoor performance space and brings daylight deep into the lower ground floor where the children’s and music libraries are located.
The prominent golden rooftop rotunda houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, an original feature from the city’s 1882 Victorian library. The room with its wooden panelling and glass cabinets has been moved in its entirety and painstakingly restored. It features some of the highlights of the library’s Shakespeare Collections, one of the largest in the world.
The library is a BREEAM excellent rated building. To ensure this, the architects have used a variety of energy saving techniques. Because of its transparency, materials were selected extremely carefully to maintain its high efficiency. Low energy lighting, as well as water conservation system and a Combined Heat and Power Engine were used. The terrace gardens, along with a “brown roof” covered in rubble from construction, will also bring environmental benefits through offsetting carbon emissions and attracting wildlife and local ecology.
At 35,000m², the Library of Birmingham welcomed over 1 million visitors in the first three months and continues to receive on average 10.000 visitors daily.
*All images and information courtesy of World Architecture Festival.