Library of Birmingham

Buro Happold
  • Library of Birmingham CG
  • Library of Birmingham interior CG
  • Library of Birmingham CG 2
  • Library of Birmingham construction
  • Library of Birmingham cross section
  • Library of Birmingham courtyard

1 / Introduction

2013 will be seen as a significant year for the City of Birmingham with the opening of Britain's biggest ever public library.

Situated in the heart of the city adjacent to Centenary Square, the new complex will replace the existing Central Library with a new state-of-the-art centre for knowledge, learning and culture fit for the 21st century.  The library is to be integrated with the existing Birmingham REP Theatre.


Key facts

  • Britain's biggest ever public library integrated with Birmingham REP Theatre
  • 300 seat auditorium
  • Atmospheric control systems to eliminate potential fires

Related Disciplines

The Project Details

  • Client:
    Birmingham City Council
  • Architect:
    Mecanoo
  • Project value:
    £140m
  • Buro Happold services:
    Building services, structural engineering, ground engineering, facade engineering, fire engineering, lighting consultancy, security consultancy, computational simulation and analysis, sustainability and alternative technologies, access consultancy, acoustics consultancy, traffic and transport, inclusive design.
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2 / Challenge

The existing Library is the busiest public library in Britain and the city’s most visited public building. The building fabric of the early 1970s building requires major renovation work and the layout is no longer suitable for modern day usage.

The current library houses archives, photography and rare printed collections of national and international significance in storage facilities lacking proper climate control; all issues the new complex will rectify. Birmingham City Council’s aim is to set new standards for libraries in the 21st century by creating an outstanding resource for learning, information and culture.

3 / Solution

The building’s performance will be the result to a vast array of Buro Happold engineering services. The project has been developed through a series of site visits, technology days with industry leaders and workshops with library staff and the design team. Concepts have been developed by creating ‘personas’ who’s experience of the building has been developed and described. This has helped shape the building through an understanding of the needs of operators and users.

4 / Value

Birmingham City Council’s aim is to set new standards for libraries in the 21st century by creating an outstanding resource for learning, information and culture. To achieve this, the new library and the REP Theatre will join together to share a number of facilities including a new 300 seat auditorium, meeting and conference rooms, plus cafe and restaurant facilities.

The protection of rare books and manuscripts is of paramount importance to the project and requires not only special environment and security measures but appropriate fire protection solutions which, in the case of fire, do not damage or destroy the collections. Other considerations include the space planning of the building, in conjunction with atmospheric control systems can eliminate fires starting.