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.
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.