A New Library for Birmingham



Hi Paul,

I can’t remember if I’ve engaged you on Birmingham’s architecture before, but if not, there’s a reason to now!

I never liked the old library until people started pointing out the history, what it should have been and when I actually stopped and studied the building in more detail.

I’ve always believed it divides the city, and until fairly recently had been unaware that it once had been an open space - something which I think should - had the whole scheme been realised, been something fantastic. The fact remains though, it’s location is poor, and ultimately will underwrite the fate of the building.

I think like you, I’m disappointed at the way some of Birmingham’s recent architecture seems to fail to endure, but that said - there are some gems amongst a lot of trash. I also like that we are prepared to innovate, and am not so crushingly bound by the idea we should preserve everything.

For me, Brindley Place actually isn’t that undesirable. It’s one of the few new well-services, pleasant open and social spaces in Brum, if not particularly adventurous - I’d far more easily criticise the dull buildings of the late 80s and early 90s that line the tow path between The Mailbox and the ICC.

The reality is that there are more building projects going on in now Birmingham than in a long time, and the skyline is definitely going upwards. I hope that the integrity of new works like the new library and the planned buildings do go on to shape how Birmingham is perceived and hopefully if they will reflect on us well.

Unlike some, I actually like the facets of The Cube, and you know, we might not get everything right first time, but the more care and effort put into experimental architecture the better. Even if it’s not always successful, it does indicate that people here are willing to give new ideas the benefit of the doubt. And the reality is that for all the outstanding, wonderful stuff we could build, it will always be affected by what surrounds it - and in many cases - that will continue detract until many older, less attractive buildings, get the attention they deserve.