Client: Birmingham City Council
Services: Project and Cost
Sector: Public Sector
Contract Type: NEC 3 Contract
Project Value: £188.8m
Start / Completion: 2007 - 2013
Capita Symonds is project and cost manager for the new
£188.8m Library of Birmingham.
The current building - Birmingham Central Library - opened in
1973 and is the busiest public library in Britain, attracting more
than 1.5 million visitors per year. The design, however, is
inflexible and cannot be easily adapted to keep up with the ever
changing developments in ICT and patterns of use for learning,
information and culture.
Designed by Dutch Architects Mecanoo, the new Library will
comprise of ten floors, nine floors above ground and one below
ground, and is expected to attract up to 10,000 visitors per day.
The development will also include a new flexible circa 300 seat
studio theatre which will be shared by both the library and the
adjoining Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
The new building will feature a spacious entrance and foyer with
mezzanine which will act as 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 also open
up public access to the collections for the first time.
Treasures include one of the world's largest Shakespeare
libraries, including a rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio; the
archive of the Matthew Boulton and James Watt steam engine
partnership (an excellent collection of early and fine printing);
and extensive photographic archives, including the work of Sir
Benjamin Stone, Francis Bedford and Francis Frith.
The library will also provide state-of-the-art storage
(including expansion space) for the archives which contain a number
of unique, valuable, and very often fragile items that require
safe, secure and environmentally controlled conditions. The archive
materials date back to the 12th century and include manuscripts,
photographs, letters, diaries, title deeds, estate papers, manorial
records, legal papers, maps, plans, photographs, film, oral history
recordings and digital resources.
The 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
At the summit, a rooftop rotunda will house the Shakespeare
Memorial Room, which was originally part of Birmingham’s Victorian
library and a panoramic viewing gallery where visitors will be able
to enjoy stunning views from one of the highest points in the city.
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
The Library of Birmingham will be accessible and
family-friendly. Transforming library services city-wide, it will
provide access to information for everyone, whether in the
building, online or through collaboration with community
Capita Symonds was originally appointed to manage the
preparation of the complex business case for the project in
September 2006, before being selected as project and cost managers
in December 2007. Since then the team has led an international
design team competition that resulted in Mecanoo’s appointment, and
an OJEU selection of the delivery contractor for which Carillion
was selected as successful bidder earlier this year.
Archaeological works on the project commenced in July and
construction began in early 2010. Completion is scheduled for mid
For further information visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraryofbirmingham