What a library!

I love the new Library of Birmingham, which has opened this week. I’ve watched it grow for some time now, impressed by the fact that it was built on such a small amount of land, basically a small car park we used to use when we went to concerts at the ICC nearby, but it looks so comfortable and grand, not squashed in at all. And I like the exterior enormously, I have no time for those people who call it an over decorated cake!

We went to the opening, with speeches given by  Malala Yousafzai, the school girl who was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after being shot in Pakistan by the Taliban, the architect Francine Houbin and Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, amongst others. Then, many of us had our first look at the interior, and quite frankly, it’s amazing.

A new library opening is a mark of civilisation in these less than civilised times, and as for the cost, well, it’s a wonderful space freely available for all, so what can be better value; just use it, to realise its worth. I grew up in Birmingham; it was a dreary place for many years, but the regeneration of many areas, especially the city centre, have made it into an astonishingly interesting city, with great architecture, spaces, and sculpture. Although why that dreadful giant tv screen was erected in  beautiful Victoria Square, obscuring one of Dhruva Mistry’s winged Guardians, and quite honestly just dragging the whole place down I’ll never know. So that’s why I’m so pleased the new library is so well done, and let’s keep it that way.

So, here are a few images.

IMG_1034The front of the building, which has nine floors above ground and one below, topped by a golden cylinder which houses the Shakespeare Collection.

IMG_1037The aluminium ‘lace’ cladding.

IMG_1016Some views of the interior, above and below,including some wonderful red chairs, which I want.







IMG_1005This is the opening fanfare, ‘Together We Breathe, played by many local brass players situated around the building, a half an hour long cascade of sound devised by sound artists Super Critical Mass. It was sombre and rather magnificent.

IMG_1003And some views from the building.


IMG_1028One of the two roof gardens; there were honey bees on these sedums, and there are even bird boxes up there, ideal for tough opinionated robins.


IMG_0949To finish, two of my favourite pictures.

14 thoughts on “What a library!

  1. Amaaazing! Thanks so much for posting these pics Steph, feel like I’m there! I can’t wait to visit this iconic new building when I’m home & I read it’s the largest public library in Europe, what a testament to the great city Birmingham has become.

  2. YOU ARE SOO LUCKY !!! Wish we had something like that in ST ALBANS…… PS I LOVE MY PICTURE (the pond ) that I bought at the NEC.

    1. Hi Pamela, pleased you love the picture; it’s inspired by another gem we have here in Birmingham, the Botanical Gardens. We are lucky though aren’t we, you’ve hit the nail on its head!

  3. How magnificent! Great architecture…and the metal lacework was designed by a quilter! Being a bit wary of heights I found the pictures from the top made me feel a bit wobbly but was thrilled that they have even catered for the birds. Do they have a good selection of quilting/ mixed media books? If not maybe you could advise them?

    1. It is a vertiginous space, I’m not good at heights so I did approach the edge with care; it does make it more amazing though, so open and thrilling. The design ideas for the metal work were featured in an exhibition we had in the Art Gallery in 2011-12 called Lost in Lace, but I can’t recall who designed the metal work; I’ll look it up and put it in the blog if I find out, all credit due after all, it’s what makes its exterior so glorious. I’ll check out the textile section and let you know!

  4. Thanks for the wonderful photos! I will put this library on my list to see on my visit next year to England. Love books and architecture.

  5. Looks a wonderful building, I ust go and have a look when I next visit my daughter and family in Dudley. My granddaughter Molly was one of the brass players. I am so proud of her.

    1. I should think you are Ann, what a brilliant thing to be so closely involved in; I loved the performance. We were able to watch the players coming up all the escalators and positioning themselves before it all started, it all added to the experience.

  6. Wow! As you say – Hallelujah for a public building based on cultural enrichment rather than profit! Love the Cathedral Window blocks in the framework! I wonder if the architect is a stitcher – or perhaps I am seeing through quilt goggles.

  7. I’ve been watching this unfold through the blog of artist Susan Kruse – The Library of Lost Books – and we’ve been investigating ways to travel to Birmingham (finally!) to see the exhibition of the altered bookworks she has curated this November. We think we’ll stay in Malvern or nearby for a few days and let the train take the strain for a day out in this magnificent building. So looking forward to seeing it and finally getting to the RBSA too. I believe it’s all within walking distance of the station so roll on November. What a stunning building and lucky you to be there at the start of it all.

    1. I’m particularly looking forward to that show too. There is so much going on at the library that I keep the Discovery Season brochure permanently open on my desk; I’ll be going into Birmingham much more frequently I imagine. Excellent that you are actually coming to visit, you will love it Lesley. There’s also Volume, a book and print fair on 5-7 December, which also features workshops and speakers. All this book orientated stuff is heaven.
      All the main features of the city centre are within a comfortable walking distance of the station; it’s a little further to the RBSA, but still walkable.

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