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First Section of New Library of Birmingham’s Façade Installed

12 August 2011

Library of Birmingham

The first section of the new £188.8 million Library of Birmingham’s striking façade has been lifted onto the building.

The delicate metal filigree, which will wrap around the new Library, was fixed to the glazed exterior facing out onto Birmingham’s Centenary Square.

Passers-by will now be able to watch from Centenary Square as the remaining panels are fitted to the building over the coming months. One by one, each segment will be hoisted onto the building by crane and affixed to a bespoke steel bracket.

The design for the Library’s exterior echoes the gasometers, tunnels, canals and viaducts which fuelled Birmingham’s industrial growth. Featuring a series of interweaving circles of two different sizes, the overlapping aluminium rings will extend across the building from the first to the eighth floor. Each imposing piece will be formed of 5.4m diameter black rings, with silver circles of 1.8m diameter attached.

Councillor Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “With two years to go until the Library of Birmingham opens its doors, we are at a hugely exciting point in the project with the installation of this stunning external façade. The new Library will be an iconic landmark, creating a major new cultural destination that will raise the city’s profile across the country and around the world. The building is progressing at a spectacular rate and this is testament to the skill and hard work of the hundreds of people helping to drive the project forward.

“With the installation of this façade, we can now begin to visualise what the final building will look like and imagine the impact this stunning development will have on both Centenary Square and the city as a whole. This innovative, highly sustainable building is spearheading what a library can and should be in the future and I am thrilled by the considerable progress that has been made so far.”

Library of Birmingham

Designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo and project managed by Capita Symonds, the Library of Birmingham, due to open in Summer 2013, will comprise of 10 floors, with nine above ground and a lower ground floor. The building will comprise a spacious entrance and foyer with mezzanine, the gateway to both the Library and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, a new flexible studio theatre, a lower ground level with indoor terraces, four further public levels and two outdoor garden terraces.

A 'golden box' of secure archive storage will occupy two levels of the building, within which the city’s internationally significant collection of archives, photography and rare books will be stored. A new state-of-the-art exhibition space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. This golden box will be formed from gold coloured anodised aluminium panels, the metallic finish changing hue depending on weather and sunlight conditions. The archives storage will also be surrounded by high performance insulation to protect the Library’s archive collections.

At the summit, a rooftop rotunda will house the Shakespeare Memorial Room, which was originally part of Birmingham’s Victorian library, and a viewing gallery where visitors will be able to look down at the city below. An outdoor amphitheatre in Centenary Square will also provide a performance space for music, drama, poetry reading storytelling and more, providing a vibrant new dimension to Centenary Square.

Francine Houben, Founding Partner of Mecanoo Architecten, went on to say: "The circular pattern of the metal framework the Library of Birmingham honours the city’s industrial heritage, in particular the craftsmanship in metal work. For me the circles symbolise unity, and relate well to the purpose of the metal frieze, unifying the different functions within the building with one gesture and expressing openness to the public."

Simon Dingle, Operations Director at Carillion, the construction partner for the Library of Birmingham, said: “Carillion is proud to be working on this landmark project in Birmingham. The commencement of this phase of work is a milestone in the construction of the library, which will transform the appearance of the structure dramatically. With our strategic partners we will remain committed to supporting schemes that benefit the local area, whether through increasing employment and training opportunities or supporting local community initiatives, maximising the potential created by the construction phase”.

For more information about the Library go to www.libraryofbirmingham.com