Library of Birmingham

Birmingham Library - design

The library floors are arranged as a clear, flexible system, sheltering beneath the great roof. An elliptical zone in the centre, designed to support the high loads of the library stacks, form the main spine of this space, from which a series of lighter petal-like floors are attached. These areas contain the main activities of the library, with views out and maximum daylight penetration. The spaces in between accommodate the structure for the great roof and vertical circulation cores. Reversing the traditional organisational model of the library, the benefit of this arrangement is to place the precious library holdings at the heart of the building where they are visible and yet protected from the potentially destructive influence of ultra-violet light and temperature and humidity fluctuations.

The primary circulation system forms an edge to the new street where a simple, legible system of glazed galleries linked by lifts and stairs celebrates movement, creating a dynamic and active vertical zone overlooking the street. The building sits on a great terracotta base integrated into the park, and extends to provide an appropriate scale of urban connection with the surrounding streets. A system of broad steps and terraces further defines the relationship between the library and the park.

The great roof acts as a sheltering plane, under which a core of library stacks are surrounded by open, flexible floor space, capable of being adapted for a variety of uses.

The library has been designed to exploit natural daylight while avoiding unwanted solar gain and minimising the need for air-conditioning. Areas requiring temperature and humidity control, such as the archives, are located in central areas, or below ground, allowing the inhabited perimeter zones to benefit from natural daylight and ventilation.

The clarity of the diagrammatic arrangement, with the great oversailing canopy of the roof and the open, glazed perimeter walls allow a high degree of visual permeability. A twin masted tower, accommodating a lift up to the sky garden, also provides the library with an urban scale marker, visible from further afield.

A new park, functioning as a connection point for pedestrian routes across the city, forms a key public open space in Eastside. The synergistic relationship between the park and the library will animate both, with activities in the park drawing visitors to the library and events in the library contributing to the life of the park outside.