Introducing The Library of Birmingham, UK

The Library of Birmingham, which opened in September 2013, is one of the most photographed of modern builds in the City. It is estimated to have cost £188.8 million to build. 


The building has been recognised for both its innovative design and for its positive social impact and has won a number of awards.The design team was led by Mecanoo, a Netherlands-based architectural practice and the build was led by Carillion.

 

Daniel Sturley

Elliott Brown

Daniel Sturley

Elliott Brown

 

Completed in Sept 2013 - Elliott Brown

The Central Library just before the start demolition in 2016 - Daniel Sturley

 

Project dates

08 Mar 2018 - On-going

Passions

Construction & regeneration, Modern Architecture

Contact

(for further information)

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ freetimepays.com

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The Discovery Terrace and the Secret Garden at the Library of Birmingham during September 2013

The Library of Birmingham opened to the public back in early September 2013. Elliott had his fist visit on the 21st September 2013 in the late afternoon, with just about time to visit the Discovery Terrace. With closing at 5pm, he returned a week later on the 28th September 2013 to head up to the Secret Garden for the first time. Since then he has been loads of times over the years.

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The Discovery Terrace and the Secret Garden at the Library of Birmingham during September 2013





The Library of Birmingham opened to the public back in early September 2013. Elliott had his fist visit on the 21st September 2013 in the late afternoon, with just about time to visit the Discovery Terrace. With closing at 5pm, he returned a week later on the 28th September 2013 to head up to the Secret Garden for the first time. Since then he has been loads of times over the years.


A digital tour of the Discovery Terrace and the Secret Garden at the Library of Birmingham. As they were during September 2013, within a few weeks of the Library opening to the public.

 

To see Elliott's previous Library of Birmingham posts from the September 2013 visits click the links below:

Discovery Terrace

Located on Level 3, the Discovery Terrace is accessed through the Revolving doors from the Discovery Floor (this was later replaced with automatic doors years later). Facing Centenary Square and the Arena Central site. Part of it goes around the side of the Library with a view of City Centre Gardens below.

On the 21st September 2013 you could see the old John Madin designed Birmingham Central Library and NatWest Tower (103 Colmore Row).

Was a bit of an animal art trail on the Discovery Terrace at the time.

Area at the back was not accessible at the time with all these barriers with something that was being finished off.

Looks like the only way to this section that day was via the side door from the library.

Some kind of bird house.

 

Secret Garden

Located on Level 7, you can get the travelator up from Level 3 to 4, then the lift or stairs up to Level 7. The Glass Lift initially worked in it's first year, but has not worked for many years or even been fixed. Press the disabled door button to open the door to the Secret Garden. It has views to the back of the Library, plus you can go around to the front for views of the City Centre.

On the 28th September 2013, there was a lot of people up on the Secret Garden. Views from up here are spectacular and change all the time. Although sometimes gets a bit boring on repeated visits over the years.

Some more colourful art installations for people to look out for at the time.

Wooden benches to sit down on and rest.

The view at the front over Centenary Square was quite busy that day.

Lots of colourful flowers up here. They regularly change them all the time.

Another bird house up here as well.

 

Over they years since, it does get a bit frustrating when the only thing to see is all of those construction sites, and I don't always want to take photos of them. Would be nice to somehow get access to the top of other tall buildings for photo views. Ran out of things to take up here. It's only those events that used to happen in Centenary Square down below that made a change from the usual views.

The Library has been closed since the first lockdown. Apart from people going for books, the terraces have yet to be reopened to the public, so I have no idea when I'll be going back up there. It wont be any time soon, that's for sure.

With a Second Lockdown (for at least a month), it means that there has been no access up to the terraces for 8 or 9 months and counting. The library had only reopened for people taking out or returning books only.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown. Can be found on Twitter: ellrbrown.

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28 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham

Since September 2013, the Shakespeare Memorial Room has been located on Level 9 at the Library of Birmingham (near the Skyline Viewpoint). Did you know that it was orginally built in 1882 to house the Shakespeare Library and was designed by John Henry Chamberlain. It was later dismantled and placed in the 1974 Central Library in the School of Music Complex, before it was moved again.

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The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham





Since September 2013, the Shakespeare Memorial Room has been located on Level 9 at the Library of Birmingham (near the Skyline Viewpoint). Did you know that it was orginally built in 1882 to house the Shakespeare Library and was designed by John Henry Chamberlain. It was later dismantled and placed in the 1974 Central Library in the School of Music Complex, before it was moved again.


The Shakespeare Memorial Room

On the 28th September 2013, I returned to the Library of Birmingham for my second visit. Also to go up to the floors that I had no time for the first time around. I went up the lift. Some lifts only go has far as Level 7, so you need the lift to Level 9. This would take you to the Skyline Viewpoint and to the Shakespeare Memorial Room. Or you can walk up the stairs.

In the first month of being open, the library was very busy and full of tourists, including many from overseas, so it was packed! There was a lot of people in the Shakespeare Memorial Room on my first visit. Although in the years since, I've had the room to myself.

Click here for my last post on the Library of Birmingham for an interior tour.

Now located inside of the Golden Cylinder at the top of the Library (looks like a Nescafe Gold Blend coffee jar lid).

The Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library was founded by George Dawson and some of his closest friends, as they decided that Birmingham should be the home of the greatest collection of Shakespeare's books in the world. They insisted that a room be built for them, and that it should be free and open to everyone.

It was originally created for the much loved (and missed) Victorian Central Library (opened in 1882 and demolished in 1974). The first Central Library of the Victorian era was built in 1866 but was partially destroyed by a fire in 1879. John Henry Chamberlain was given the task to re-build the Library and this included a room to house Birmingham's Shakespeare Library.

Sir Barry Jackson, the founder of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1913, later became a Director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon during the late 1940s. There is a gavel given to him in 1936 in the room.

The next Central Library was designed by John Madin and was built from 1969 until 1974. The Shakespeare Memorial Room was dismantled from the old Victorian library and put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Being placed in what was the School of Music complex. Which included Adrian Boult Hall and the Birmingham Conservatoire. This included the Library Theatre Birmingham and the William Shakespeare Memorial Library and the Library Exhibition Hall.

It remained there until it was moved to the new Library of Birmingham in 2013 (built from 2010 until 2013).

The roof was reconstructed by in plaster by A E Edwards & Co, a Birmingham based company dating to the 1870s.

I'd only ever got close to the outside of the old complex (during 2011), so never stepped foot in the room until it reopened at the Library of Birmingham in 2013.

 

View of the Library Theatre Birmingham on the 2nd January 2011. This concrete bridge was in front of Woktastic. There was also an entrance to Adrian Boult Hall at the time.

What was the entrance to the William Shakespeare Memorial Library and Library Exhibition Hall. I never went in. Wasn't sure if I could open the doors as they were self locking doors. After the last Central Library closed down for good in 2013, I had to wait for the new Library to open before I could see the room for myself for the first time.

On the 31st August 2013, I was getting my last views of the Library of Birmingham before it opened to the public in Centenary Square 3 days later on the 3rd September 2013. This view of the golden cylinder seen from Suffolk Street Queensway. The windows at the front is the Skyline Viewpoint and the Shakespeare Memorial Room is behind that.

On the 21st September 2013 during my first visit to the inside of the Library of Birmingham I took the photo below. At the top of the library on Level 9 is the Shakespeare Memorial Room inside of the Golden Cylinder. Below on Level 7 is the Secret Garden. The view was from the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line (near the Turnover Bridge No. 2 close to what was at that point called the National Indoor Arena). Overlooking the ICC Energy Centre.

On the 28th September 2013, arriving at the Shakespeare Memorial Room on Level 9 for the first time. There was a lot of people in there.

Looking up at the ceiling. It is remarkable that this has survived since the late 19th century (unless it is a recreation).

Looking to the wooden panelling on one side of the room.

It more or less looks the same to the right.

And to the left near the door.

One of the corners with the bookcases.

Looking down at the doors of the lower cabinets.

Looking up to the ceiling to the ornate detailing at the top.

Out of the door, and there was comfy red sofas at the Skyline Viewpoint.

Ornate glass windows in the upper cabinet doors.

The views outside the room are spectacular. There is also a couple of busts and plaques / tablets, including ones saved from the old Central Libraries. If the lifts are busy walk down the stairs (if you can).

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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23 Jun 2020 - Elliott Brown
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Tour of the inside of the Library of Birmingham during September 2013

Welcome to a tour of the Library of Birmingham from my visits back in September 2013. My first visits were on the 21st and 28th September 2013. It was very busy. Loads of people visiting the library for the first time. Heading up the escalators between the levels. At the time the glass lift still worked, so you could go in that if it wasn't too busy. 9 levels plus the basement levels.

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Tour of the inside of the Library of Birmingham during September 2013





Welcome to a tour of the Library of Birmingham from my visits back in September 2013. My first visits were on the 21st and 28th September 2013. It was very busy. Loads of people visiting the library for the first time. Heading up the escalators between the levels. At the time the glass lift still worked, so you could go in that if it wasn't too busy. 9 levels plus the basement levels.


For this post we are only looking at the inside of the Library of Birmingham. So not the Shakespeare Memorial Room, Discovery Terrace or the Secret Garden (I'll leave those for future posts).

 

Originally the Library had revolving doors from Centenary Square (and also to the Discovery Terrace on Level 3). There is also a disabled door you can use by the press of a button. The revolving doors were replaced years later by automatic doors, as the revolving doors kept getting stuck. Also the glass lift from Level 4 to Level 7 stopped working after a year. Meaning you have to use the other lifts, or the stairs (if you can). There are escalators from Level G (the ground floor) to Level 3. Then a travelator up to Level 4. Access to Level 7 and 9 is by the lifts or stairs. Level 5 and Level 8 is for staff only. There is also the Library Cafe on the ground floor, and you can take you coffee up to the Mezzanine floor (also called Level MZ).

 

21st September 2013

Starting on the ground floor Level G, a look towards the entrance to the REP. On the left is the Library Shop. Where you can buy Birmingham souvenirs. I got in after 4pm that day.

The escalators from Level G to Level 1 was busy that day. On the left was a temporary exhibition, called The Pavilion

When it opened, Level 1 was originally called Business Learning & Health (this was before Brasshouse Languages took it over in 2016).

There used to be desks where you could work on your laptop or tablet on. WiFi early on was weak, but years later the free WiFi got better (well at least after I kept upgrading my smartphone every couple of years).

The escalators from Level 1 up to Level 2.

Next up was Level 2, which was originally called the Knowledge Floor. Around the core of this floor and the floor above is the Book Rotunda. There is a lot of old historic books around there.

Another area for studying and using your laptop or tablet with a view out to Centenary Square.

Now it was time to leave Level 2 for Level 3. Just had to go up the escalator to the next floor.

Now a look around Level 3, which was called the Discovery Floor at the time. This area was called the Mediatheque. Where you can watch films from a library collection (I think).

The Travelator that goes from Level 3 up to Level 4. That time it was set to go up on the right. Usually you go up on the left.

On the ride up, you can see the glass lift. And there was a queue for it waiting to go up to Level 7.

Level 4 was called Archives & Heritage. You can go through glass doors when you get to the top, or at the time use the glass lift (it wouldn't remain in service for long before it broke down - in fact it's not worked for years!).

I would have gone higher that day, but it was almost 5pm and that was the time that the Library of Birmingham closed for the evening. So heading back down the escalators through the Book Rotunda. At this point heading down from Level 3 to Level 2. Next up would be the escalator down to Level 1.

Heading down the escalator from Level 1 back to Level G, where you can see The Pavilion temporary exhibition on the right.

A look at the Children's Library which is on Level LG (Lower Ground Floor).

Back on Level G, and heading from the Library of Birmingham into the foyer of the REP.

28th September 2013

One week later, I returned to the Library of Birmingham to go all the way up to the top to Level 9 for the Shakespeare Memorial Room and Skyline Viewpoint. Got in much earlier this time, just before 1pm that day. This wall welcomes you to the Library of Birmingham. Was also a screen showing information about the exhibition on at the time called Dozens & Trails. This was on Level G.

This time I was able to get the glass lift up from Level 4 to Level 7.

Now on Level 7 after going up the glass lift. Here you can see the comfy red chairs in a staff only area of the Library. On Level 7 is the Secret Garden.

Views from Level 7 near the Glass Lift down to the floors below. You can see the travelator and the escalators down to about Level 2.

If you don't like heights don't look down! On this day the travelator was operating in the correct directions. Left side to take you down from Level 7 to 4. The right side to take you up from Level 4 to 7.

The escalators on Level 2 takes you to and from Level 1 (on the left) and to and from Level 3 (on the right).

There was also some comfy red chairs on Level 7. I used to sit on some of them on Level 3 to get onto the WiFi on my then smartphone.

On Level 7 you can see a staff office through the window from the corridor from the regular lifts and stairs. So you might see this if going to or from the Secret Garden (unless they have the blinds down).

That day I used the stairs to go down. Went a bit too far down to Level LG, and saw these desks with PC's on them. So had to go back up the stairs to Level G to exit.

That's it folks for this tour of the Library of Birmingham. It's changed a lot since it first opened 7 years ago.

For the next Library of Birmingham post, I could show you around the Shakespeare Memorial Room. It's on Level 9 near the Skyline Viewpoint.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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15 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
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The Library of Birmingham and Baskerville House from 2010 to 2019

The view of the construction of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House from 2010 to 2013. Then some other views in the years until 2019. Watch the cores of the Library rise, then the golden cladding then all the circles. Was even a view from where the Edward VII statue was installed.

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The Library of Birmingham and Baskerville House from 2010 to 2019





The view of the construction of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House from 2010 to 2013. Then some other views in the years until 2019. Watch the cores of the Library rise, then the golden cladding then all the circles. Was even a view from where the Edward VII statue was installed.


Previous Library of Birmingham posts here:

Views of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House. Construction from 2010 to 2013. Opened from September 2013. Views until the end of 2019.

2010

November 2010: views from the bridge on Centenary Way. The restored King Edward VII statue had just been installed in Centenary Square.

December 2010: slighty hazzy conditions at the end of the year.

2011

March 2011: A few more floors had gone up on the Library, up to about Level 3 or 4.

October 2011: The main body of the Library had reached the future home of the Shakespeare Memorial Room, while cladding had gone up to Level 3 or 4.

A perspective of the Library construction with Baskerville House from behind the statue of King Edward VII. Which had been in this spot for almost a year at this point.

December 2011: The rest of the golden cladding and windows goes up to Level 8. And the structure forms around the cylinder at the top where the Shakespeare Memorial Room and Skyline Viewpoint would be on Level 9. Cladding from Level 2 down to the ground floor was complete.

2012

November 2012: Only got a view from near the Alpha Tower towards the Library of Birmingham, Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory. From where I was would one day be part of the Arena Central development site.

2013

January 2013: A few days into the New Year and was these hoardings in front of Baskerville House. Cladding on the Library was complete.

The snow fall from the middle of January 2013. Can hardly see the Hyatt, while snow surrounds the Hall of Memory.

The snow was falling as I went past Baskerville House.

April 2013: From the bridge on Centenary Way. Compare to my earlier views from 2010 and 2011. From here the Library looked complete but wouldn't open for another 5 months. Flower beds were on the bridge over Paradise Circus Queensway.

August 2013: Near the end of the month, the hoards had gone, and the gardens opened up.

This landscaping would only last until about 2017 before Centenary Square was redeveloped again.

Broad Street panoramic including the Library of Birmingham, Baskerville House and Hall of Memory. Hanging flower pots in the middle. This is all now gone for Library Tram Stop.

September 2013: A few days after the Library had opened to the public for the first time, there was long queues as far as Baskerville House. I waited a couple of weeks more before going in for the first time.

I went into the Library of Birmingham for the first couple of times near the end of September 2013. Was still a lot of people around, but the queues were as long as when it first opened.

2014

November 2014: The Library of Birmingham had been open for 14 months and there was some scaffolding up on Baskerville House for some restoration work on the stonework. Poppies up for the annual remembrance commemorations.

2015

May 2015: A long queue on a Saturday morning at 11am to get into of the Library of Birmingham. Just two more years for this paving and the grass before Centenary Square was redeveloped again. Baskerville House shining brightly in the sunshine.

2017

December 2017: Nightshots for when the Library of Birmingham was lit up in all the colours of the rainbow when Birmingham was officially announced as the Host City of the Commonwealth Games 2022. Baskerville House lit up in bright white light. As was the Hall of Memory. Redevelopment of Centenary Square had started by this point.

2018

December 2018: Views of the Library of Birmingham from Bridge Street near the site of 5 Centenary Square at Arena Central (to date it hasn't been built). Formerly called 1 Arena Central. From here you could also see the BT Tower.

2019

December 2019: My last photos of the Library of Birmingham with Baskerville House were taken from Paradise Street, just beyond Town Hall Tram Stop. At the time Ice Skate Birmingham was in Centenary Square. Arena Central with the Alpha Tower and HSBC UK at 1 Centenary Square to the left.

West Midlands Metro trams can now go past the Library of Birmingham. The extension to Centenary Square opened in December 2019.

For more tram photos in December 2019 at Town Hall Tram Stop see this post: West Midlands Metro tram in and out of Town Hall Tram Stop on the last weekend of the Birmingham FCM (December 2019).

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Classic Architecture
14 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin

Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.

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Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin





Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.


For more on John Baskerville check out my post here: John Baskerville: creator of his own typeface.

 

Before Carillion could start building the Library of Birmingham in January 2010, archaeologists had to go on the site in the summer of 2009. For many years the land between Baskerville House and The REP had been used as a car park for the Council. Once the upper layers were dug up, they could start digging up the remains and see what was left below. Intact brick walls of Baskerville Basin were found on the site and many remains and finds. Towards the site of what is now Centenary Square used to be Gibson's Arm which was a private canal built during the 1810s. Baskerville Basin was filled in during 1938 before the proposed Civic Centre was to be built. While Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory were built, the rest of the proposals weren't indirectly due to the outbreak of World War Two.

 

A map printed in 1880, this section showing Baskerville Wharf between Cambridge Street and Broad Street. Old Wharf is below (that was later filled in as well).

I would assume that the original scanner took it from the Library of Birmingham's maps area.

Map below in the Birmingham History Galleries, BM & AG, of the location of Old Wharf. In the 18th Century where John Baskerville's house on what was Easy Row. Baskerville Wharf was located a little further to the north west of here.

Also see my post on the model of the proposed square we never got: The Centenary Square we never got in the 1940s. Had the plans gone ahead there could have been formal gardens on this site.

This model (seen below) is at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre.

 

The following 8 photos were taken down the service road between Baskerville House and the site of the Library of Birmingham during August 2009. View towards the Hyatt Hotel and The REP.

View towards The REP.

Brick walls were sticking out of the ground. I wonder if they had to dig them up, so there would be room for the basement levels of the Library?

That side of The REP would get demolished during the construction of the Library.

At this point the only hoardings were in Centenary Square.

This would be the only time that I saw the remains of the brick walls in the ground.

This canal basin / arm used to link up to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. But now City Centre Gardens and the Civic Centre Towers are built over that end beyond Cambridge Street.

One more view including the Hyatt Hotel and Symphony Hall.

I've got hundreds to thousands of photos of the Library of Birmingham, so any future post will have to be a small highlight of them. Such as during the construction or when it was first opened in 2013.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points