A Dutch architect chosen to design the new £193 million Library of Birmingham has promised to build a “warm and welcoming people’s palace”.
Francine Houben, founding partner of multi-award winning firm Mecanoo, said she hoped the building in Centenary Square would be loved by Birmingham citizens and become the city’s social heart.
Her firm has been chosen from architectural practices shortlisted to design one of the largest local authority-funded projects in the UK. The project will see the new landmark library built on the car park next to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and open to the public by 2013.
Mecanoo has designed many highly original library, learning and arts centre buildings including National Kaohsiung Performing Arts Center in Taiwan, and the Library for the Technical University in Delft.
One stunning design, the Learning Center for the École Polytechnique in Lausanne, revolves at 15 degrees per hour – the same speed as the Earth.
Mecanoo was also responsible for the Delft Municipal Offices and Train Station and the Palace of Justice in Cordoba, Spain.
The firm has won 14 major architectural awards since it began in the early 1980s including one for the FiftyTwoDegrees business innovation centre in Nijmegen, Holland earlier this year - and the other for the Netherlands’ highest building, the Montevideo skyscraper in Rotterdam, which also scooped an International Highrise award, a National Steel Construction prize and a City of Rotterdam Building Quality prize in 2006.
The announcement was made by city council leader Mike Whitby at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which is a partner in the project and will share many facilities with the new library including a 300- seat auditorium.
Ms Houben said: “We are excited to have been selected to design a building destined to become the social heart of Birmingham. Mecanoo loves to create unforgettable collective spaces, inside and outside. It is a challenge to realise this major project in Centenary Square. We hope to create a people’s palace, warm and welcoming. I hope it will be loved by the Birmingham citizens.”
Mecanoo was selected from a short list of seven major architects including Sir Norman Foster, the designer of Wembley Stadium and the Gherkin building in the City of London.
About £15 million of the cost of building the new library depends upon the current Central Library being demolished and the land sold for redevelopment.
The Central Library, in Paradise Circus, opened in 1973, and is the busiest public library in the UK attracting more than 1.5 million visitors per year.
It is now regarded by the council as past its sell-by date, costing more and more to maintain and lacking proper climate controlled storage facilities for Birmingham’s historic and valuable archives. The library’s supporters, however, are fighting to save the building as an example of 1970s brutalist architecture.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne), who has driven the project, said: “With their creativity, vision, experience and international pedigree Mecanoo are the perfect choice to help us deliver an innovative world-class building which the people of Birmingham can be truly proud of.
“Their enthusiasm and understanding for the project, coupled with a track record for delivering visually stunning yet user-friendly buildings, really made them stand out among those shortlisted.”
He added: “Getting the design of this building right is of the utmost importance as not only will the new development be unique within this country but, as a combined cultural centre, it will be of international relevance. And we see it as integral to the Big City Plan - our twenty year vision for Birmingham’s future. “
They will now work on the designs which will be revealed next year.