The Library of Birmingham looks out over Centenary Square, which is one of the largest squares in the city. It was designed by the Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo Architecten and at 35,000 m² it is the biggest public library in Europe.


The metal circles in the filigree skin of the transparent glass façade pay tribute to the craft traditions of the gold and silver smiths from Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.


As the architects explained: “The cantilever of the library is not only a large canopy that provides shelter at the common entrance of the Library of Birmingham and the REP (Repertory Theatre), but additionally it forms a grand city balcony with views of the events and happenings on the square”.


Inside, there are adults’ and children’s libraries, study spaces, a music library, a community health centre, multimedia facilities, archives, a Shakespeare Memorial Room, offices, exhibition halls, cafes, lounge spaces and a new auditorium with seating for 300 people that is shared with the adjoining Repertory Theatre.  The areas inside the building are dynamically interlinked, with scenic lifts and escalators joining together nine different floors.


Running along the perimeter of the library is a worktop where visitors can study and use computers as they sit on Lem stools designed by Shin & Tomoko Azumi for LaPalma.


The Library of Birmingham is a BREEAM excellent rated building and it incorporates grey water systems and ground source heat pumps. Although the Library is a transparent building, it maintains energy efficiency through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria.

It is one of the buildings on the shortlist for the 2014 World Architecture Festival.


Sabrina Sciama

Sabrina Sciama

After graduating in architecture, she worked in publishing for over twenty years. Contents manager for corporate blogs, architecture- and design portals, collaborating with professional magazines and handling the drafting of monographs. She has worked with: Domus, Abitare, Case da Abitare, Auto&Design, Case&Stili. Actively involved in the portal between 2001 and 2007, working mainly on the daily news section and the daily newsletter, as well as playing a proactive role in the management of additional website content. Editor of Box magazine from 2004 to 2009, also coordinating the drafting of two volumes focusing on young designers entitled “Box circa 40 – progettisti italiani e stranieri attorno ai 40 anni”. Coordinated the drafting of corporate catalogues and monographs for the series entitled “I Protagonisti del Design” for Hachette Fascicoli (Giulio Iacchetti and James Irvine, 2012).