Library of Birmingham
When I started this website back in 2005, the future of Birmingham's
Central Library was unclear. There was talk of the possibility of
two replacement libraries, one for lending and the other for
reference. Millenium Point was the favoured location for at least
one of these.
Fast forward to 2011 and all is clear as work is well underway on the
in Centenary Square. Combined with the
knowledge that the old Central Library failed
to obtain listing status
and the future plans for Paradise Circus
, it is
clear that the John Madin designed building, opened in 1974, will
almost certainly follow its Victorian
and fall victim to
the wrecking ball and bulldozer! I don't think the recent listing
on World Monument Fund's list of 'at risk monuments
will help it...
Whatever you think of it, it always
looks better in the sunshine!
For someone who works close to the new library site, it has been an
interesting thing to watch and record. I've created this page to
capture that journey.
Things started getting interesting when the Cambridge Street car park
was closed in April 2008 and some test pits were dug. The
pictures below show that there was some fascinating archaeology just
below the surface. It certainly made me wonder what else was
buried just below the surface of the streets of Birmingham...
Pictures taken April 2008 by sneaking
into the cordoned off car park when no one was looking!
A year later and the sign was up to say that the new library would be
built on the Cambridge Street car park site. Artworks like
'Spirit & Enterprise' and the much maligned 'Flame of Hope' (you
may recall the flame
due to lack of funds!) would soon lose their place
in the city.
Before the work started, though, a thorough dig would be undertaken by
Birmingham Archaeology and the site recorded. Below are some
pictures I took as the dig progressed. The story of the remains
of Winfield's Cambridge Street Works brass foundry can be found on the Birmingham
, along with details on the earlier history of
I had read that the area around modern day Centenary Square was once
the planned site for a huge civic centre development. The War
Memorial, Baskerville House and the Municipal Bank were as far as it
got before World War Two came along put a stop to things.
At an exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in January 2010,
the model of the planned development was on show and is pictured
below. I find it interesting that this dream continued throughout
the years and the new library will join the Rep, the ICC and Symphony
Hall to help create a Civic Centre to be proud of. It's also
interesting that the four, nearby blocks
are known as the Civic Centre site.
The remainder of the pictures on this page capture the progress of work
on the site. It is due for completion in spring 2013 and will
cost a projected £188.8m. I have mixed feelings about the
design but I don't think you can question that there is a real vision
involved in how it looks and how it will function. I am surprised
by the scale of it, however. I'm sure early artist's impressions
didn't show how much it would dwarf the splendid Baskerville House!
One final surprise was to discover that the amazing Shakespeare
, designed by John Chamberlain and originally
within the Victorian Central Library on Ratcliff Place/Edmund Street,
would once again be dismantled (it is currently housed in the hideous
School of Music in Paradise Circus) and be
reconstructed in the golden rotunda
that will top of the new
library building. Hard to believe that there will be a little bit
of the old crowning the very new!
The library opened on Tuesday 6 September 2013 and was overrun with
visitors, keen to see what it was all about. Here's the finished