Birmingham’s bold new plans for a £193?million library will be the key to securing new investment in the city, business leaders have said.
The new designs for the building were unveiled by the city council yesterday, which pledged the library was at the heart of the city’s plans to fight the recession.
The ten-storey high landmark, which will sit between Birmingham Rep and Baskerville House, will open in 2013.
The building, with 31,000 square metres of floor space including subterranean levels under Centenary Square, has been designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo Architecten.
Council leader Mike Whitby said that Birmingham is the only UK city with a project as big or bold as the library and it showed the ambition and ability to battle the recession.
The investment, backed by borrowing, taxpayers and the sale of council-owned land, will encourage further investment in the city, he said.
“No one else is doing anything like this. It is an expression of confidence and it will be built,” he added.
Adrian Watson, chairman of the Investment Property Forum in the Midlands, said: “Any and all investment in construction in Birmingham is to be welcomed and the IPF believes that the designs for the new library will enhance the city’s offering.”
Mr Watson said the construction and opening of the existing Central Library site would secure further key investment in Birmingham.
He added: “The council is to be commended for pushing ahead on this major investment in the current climate.”
John Phillips, regional director of The Institute of Directors, said: “We welcome the support this brings to a beleaguered West Midlands construction industry and as far as we are concerned the start date cannot be too soon.”
With construction set to begin next year the jobs created would ensure that valuable skills are not lost, he said.
Commenting on the design, Coun Whitby said: “We are a city of one million people and there will be different views on it, but I believe that most people will appreciate what we are doing and embrace it.”
Historian Carl Chinn, who has liaised with the architects during visits to the city, described the design as “inspirational”. He said: “I am excited by it. It is big, and perfect for the space. The spirograph effect of the metal gives movement to the building. I love the curves inside the building and the amphitheatre out on the square is inspired.”
Architect Joe Holyoak, a member of the Friends of the Central Library, was also impressed.
He said: “It can be a good occupant for the space, it fills the gap. It is bigger than it should be. I am surprised at how small the neighbouring buildings are in comparison.
“I am also surprised at how similar in composition it is to the existing library. The materials are different with glass and metal instead of concrete, but it is similar.”
Coun Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem, Moseley and Kings Heath), who has defended the existing Central Library, was less impressed.
“If this was a private developer it wouldn’t get planning permission, since it is next to a listed building, Baskerville House, and it overwhelms it in height,” he said.
“The design is interesting - it looks like a bundle of mattresses with their covering missing, chucked on top of each other.”