Earlier this month Birmingham, England opened its grand new library in the city center. The city hopes that the impressive metal-clad work of art, which cost around $295 million to build, will become a key element in redefining Birmingham’s image. Currently the largest public library in the UK, and the largest public cultural space in Europe, the library is certainly hard to miss. Mecanoo with engineers, Buro Happold, were enlisted in 2008 as the designers behind the project after winning an international competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Mecanoo designed the exterior of the building, with its filigree pattern of metal rings over gold and silver glass facades, to reference the city’s artisan tradition.
Speaking at the opening was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who the Taliban shot for campaigning for women’s right to education. Now residing in Birmingham Yousafzai stated that “Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one teacher can change the world.” In the first eight days of being open the library surpassed 100,000 visitors.
The library’s director, Brian Gambles, is optimistic that the popularity of the new space will continue. The building is unmistakable, being gold, silver and clad in metal. He said that “we wanted to create a building that shouts out learning and culture.” Indeed, through ten stories visitors have access to over 400,000 books (many more in the archives), 240 computers, a children’s library, reading spaces, an art gallery, a multimedia centre, two cafes, a music library, a performance space, green outdoor terraces and a shop. This library is not just for books and was designed to reflect the changes in the ways people seek out information. I certainly hope to visit it someday!