Birmingham's new library to be taller than first proposed
Birmingham’s new £193 million library in Centenary Square is set to be slightly taller than first proposed, in a move likely to reignite claims that the striking modern design risks overshadowing nearby 1930s Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory.
A planning application to be considered next week by the city council shows 10 storeys above ground level rather than nine as previously proposed.
The building will be 60 metres high rather than 58 metres, with two additional floors underground accommodating the children’s and adults lending library.
A mezzanine floor will connect with the adjoining Rep theatre and both buildings will share a common entrance.
The decision by architects Mecanoo to adjust the height appears to contradict a promise earlier this year by the city’s head of library services Brian Gambles.
Mr Gambles said at the time: “As a result of public consultation it was decided that the library was too high. One storey has been taken off to improve the relationship with Baskerville House and the Repertory Theatre.”
Plans for what the council is describing as a world-class building have drawn a subdued response from the government’s architectural advisers.
CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, described the design as a “very promising starting point”, but added that the scheme was “still not yet a fully convincing architectural proposition”.
The council’s own consultation exercise resulted in 607 comments, but more than half of respondents had no view about the merit of the design.
Of those that did comment, 19 per cent liked the design and 13 per cent were opposed.
Mecanoo aim to keep a proposed cage of metal hoops encasing the exterior of the building, a feature regarded as unsightly by some people.
The unusual feature is meant to represent Birmingham’s industrial heritage and craftsmanship in metalwork.
Council planning officer Simon Hodge insisted views of historic buildings in Centenary Square would not be harmed.
Mr Hodge said: “The library has been carefully designed to respect the setting of Baskerville House.
“The scheme comprises the redevelopment of a brownfield site within the city centre with a building of high quality modern design.
“It will provide a 21st century library service and integrated and improved repertory theatre of international status for Birmingham citizens and for visitors.”