The main library in Birmingham (Central Library) used to look like this.
Well actually, it still does in a way – the building is still there, just not being used. There are shops and restaurants in the walkway underneath (you can just see the ‘Paradise Forum’ sign on the left), but the main building , well I’m presuming it’s full of things they didn’t take over to the new library – dumping ground style. (Obviously the hoarder/collector in me wants to go and have a good nosey and gather)
Honestly, I was never a huge fan of the library – I couldn’t find a nice spot to hide away and read in, (the best I saw being the huge windowsills in the fiction section – those floor to ceiling ones above – but they were always occupied and as you can see are very overlooked!) it was a bit cramped and sometimes a bit smelly. But it was huge! I’ve lived in Birmingham for nearly 13 years now, and having grown up in much smaller towns, Central Library was in a whole other league. I was impressed with the size, the music library was enormous!
The Central Library closed on 3rd September 2013, followed by the opening of the Library of Birmingham. I’ve watched the new building going up for a while, although I missed a lot of it when I was away. It had hugely mixed reviews while it was going up – it’s not going to look right, it’s not in keeping, it’s too this, too that. I’ve not heard a negative review of it since it opened though! :~)
On 16th September, a few weeks after it opened, Ed and I went for an explore of the new building. As usual, I took a lot of photos! I’ve pieced them together below – you should be able to click on them to make them bigger if you like.
There is a huge section of books on the first floor of acts (of the law variety) ranging from hundreds of years ago to the latest editions. Floor to ceiling. Quite Cool.
The interior is based around a circular centre, so the aisles slowly get closer together – rather elegant. (Acts books in the background)
The grid work on the outside of the building from all sorts of angles – I like the black and silver girds interacting with each other, and the sunlit highlights.
Around the balconies there are lots of beds – some with flowers, some with veg (I spotted cabbage) and a lot with strange little creatures in. I do like the carrots with what looks like Quartz – they look like triumphant miners!
Some of the lovely plants on the balcony. Very glad they planted Lavender – it will be a lovely place to sit in the summer, hopefully with lots of butterflies.
Views from around the building – The photo of the Hyatt hotel is from the front, with views organised by direction.
The Shakespeare Room inside the gold ‘chimney’ at the top of the building was taken apart and rebuilt from its home at Central…the same was done when the library moved from the Victorian building into the Central building. It’s a beautiful room, with lots of gorgeous details:
(The carpet pattern – echoing the grid work outside – made me smile)
The shapes inside the library are just lovely – lots of circles meeting each other, lines crossing over each other and echoing all over. The window with grids are the very top of the building. The circular sky and paving views are from the music library and archives – based around an open courtyard sunken into the ground. Just lovely.
There is a ‘box room’ in the foyer, covered in colourful decoration – there are flags on the top too. It’s been used for a few things I think – activities and exhibitions from what I’ve spotted going past.
I’ve found a nice spot in the new library to read and look at new books – the new chairs are curved like they’ve been moulded round a giant ball, making it easy to forget where you are, and get engrossed in a book – or several as I have been doing lately – exploring new adventures. This is the view from there.
Much better in real life.
There’s a great collection of maps of the area, a lot of interactive media spaces (booths you can watch movies in for free!), a ‘secret’ garden (not so secret if it’s on all the signposts though!), seating outside and in, huge work tables, impressive automated machines so you don’t even need to interact with anyone if you don’t want to (saving grace for me on a few visits!) and on the whole, the staff have been excellent.
I highly recommend, if you find yourself in Birmingham, to go and have a wander – from the bottom to the top the library is really rather great, with lots of space and light and interesting things dotted around (there’s a trail of art work – including a bloody brilliant piece by Jennifer Collier that’s definitely worth finding) but also spaces you can just sit.
It was a lovely few hours spent exploring, and I’ve subsequently spent a few more sitting, catching up with other friends, reading and more exploring. I’m so glad there’s a space like this here.