Location: Birmingham, UK [MAP]
Designer: Francine Houben
Project Type: Public Graden
Completion Date: 03.09.2013
Access: Public access building, head towards Centenary Square (just up the road from New Street Station). Level 3 is accessible via escalators, level 7 via a lift.
Opened this September 2013, the new Library of Birmingham replaced the controversial brutalist Central Library; an iconic building on the Birmingham skyline. It comes into question, can this modern piece live up to its predecessor? This was our reason for visiting, and as it so often happened a Secret Garden was discovered along the way.
The Library of Birmingham is architecturally in ‘fashion’ with its heavily decorative façade. However it is the internal elements and their extraordinary combination that make this building great. After being impressed with the entrance space and view of the interlocking escalators, not to mention layers upon layers of books; travel to the 4th floor and look for the doors that lead you outside. Here you will find the first secret garden.
Raised beds interwoven with gravel paths reflect the façade pattern, which has been used as the identity of the Library. (It has also been used in the floor pattern and on the Library teams uniforms). The real joy is the planting combination of colours and soft texture. It also gives a rejuvenating view for a person inside to break up the rather grey concrete horizon.
Bird boxes are placed around in combination with the gravel roof, made from site debris, which helps create habitats for wildlife.
There is an element of fun in the gardens with wooden characters dancing about in the beds.
Onwards to level 7 – via a glass lift! This floor is made up of meeting rooms with a professional atmosphere. However don’t be put off as another beautiful garden waits just beyond the doors leading outside.
Storage for black machinery is cleverly included in the design, making them feel like sculptures and part of the garden. They have a double use as lifts for access to the building façade.
It is great that the gardens have been included in the design; they are not visible from the outside looking upward, adding to a sense of discovery when you do come across them. It also adds to the multi-disciplined elements of this building, not only is it a library, but also gardens, a view point, meeting rooms, a bar, a café, space for corporate events, film viewing, study, education and even a theatre. A flexible use building, which caters to today’s needs.