So the long-awaited Library of Birmingham finally opened this Tuesday. As we were entering the building I heard a mother’s voice patiently explaining to her kid: ‘You were only three, darling, when they started working on this library…’ To my Russian eye the black cubic carcass of the last year’s unadorned structure looked like a massive Mausoleum. Then the gilded blocks and interconnected circles that formed the outside frieze slowly transformed it for me into a giant wedding cake. I do think it’s brilliant, just can’t help the associations!
Here is just a photo story of my impressions from the library opening day.
The metal rings are supposed to reflect the city’s industrial heritage, including the Jewellery Quarter where we live.
Birmingham has set itself the target of becoming one of the world’s top 20 most livable cities on the Mercer chart. The idea of the Library of Birmingham as a ‘living room of the city’ where people would meet and mingle and feel comfortable in a ‘people’s palace’ was designed to fuel this ambition. Sure enough, the space both inside and outside the library is welcoming.
However, I remember hundreds of youngsters similarly enjoying the sun on the steps of Chamberlain Square outside the old Brutalist library which Prince Charles famously described as ‘looking more like a place for burning books than keeping them’. As an ironic answer to this comment there was a guy carrying a sign ‘Hey Charlie what do you think of this one then?’ during the opening ceremony.
The library opened its doors to the people of all walks of life, ages and ethnic backgrounds.
I didn’t get but apparently, as John told me, the radio presenters in the library foyer were dressed as the 70s football commentators. A stormtrooper added to the sense of the carnival.
The inside space felt generous enough – once the doors were open the library absorbed several thousands of visitors without any problem. However, on the whole the interior presented a mixture of styles and spaces.
Nonetheless, the entire space is very user-friendly. AS everyone was waiting for the brass players performance ‘Together We Breathe’ some visitors were already checking the reference materials and teenagers comfortably occupied the lobby area.
And so it opened – if you haven’t been to the Library I would recommend you a visit.