Keywords Change this
1971 – 1974
Location Change this
B3 3HQ Birmingham, West Midlands
Architect Change this
Article last edited by archibald on
March 28th, 2011
Birmingham Central Library Change this
Description Change this
The Birmingham Central Library, the main public library in Birmingham, managed by the Birmingham City Council, was completed in 1974. It was designed by the English and Birmingham local architect John Madin. The architecture of the building can be seen as an icon for the Brutalist style.
Birmingham's existing Central Library is the third Central Library, after the first Central Lending Library (which opened 1865/6, designed by the architect E.M.Barry) burnt down in 1879, was rebuilt and reopened in 1882, until this second library was demolished to make room for the current building, construction of which began in the late 1960s. John Madin based its design on that of Kallman, McKinnell and Knowles's Boston City Hall (1963-68), an inverted ziggurat. The building is clad in pre-cast concrete panels, and the concrete is strongly expressed with a rough texture through abrasive blasting and exposed limestone aggregate.
The Central Library is located over the Paradise Forum and has a complex multi-level structure. The structure of the building was constructed in two parts, the first section, the reference library, is constructed in a square building, and the second section, the wing of the building, contains the children’s library, lending library, quick reference library and administrative offices. The inverted ziggurat rests on tall piers, whereas the lending library is a curving 3-storey wing. The piers and shapes were designed by the golden section. The upper storeys of the reference library are stepped out from the ones below; this helps shield the windows so that direct light cannot damage the books. In contrast the Central Library’s large floorplates benefit from a central atrium which allows daylight to flood into the central court. From 1989-1991 the library was enclosed with a glass roof and the central court of the Central Library was filled with shops. It was originally intended that the Central Library would be set in landscaped gardens, with five pools, and that Centenary Square could be extended at full width to the library.
The English Heritage has twice recommended the Central Library for listing, but nevertheless the building will be demolished soon, like other landmarks by John Madin in Birmingham, for example the Post and Mail building (demolished in 2005). Many are campaigning for the existing building to be maintained and kept as it is. The fourth Library of Birmingham will be designed by the Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten. The new complex will connect the Library of Birmingham with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and is due to open in 2013.