Campaigners hoping to save Birmingham’s Central Library building from the bulldozers have drawn up plans for its inclusion in the regeneration of Paradise Circus.
The 1974 building, designed by the architect John Madin, has been earmarked for demolition for more than a decade while council bosses set out designing and building the new library which is due to open next year.
Earlier this year developers Argent and Altitude unveiled the official master plan, which involves the rebuilding of Paradise Circus with offices, public spaces and a new concert hall, earlier this year and are currently consulting on the plans.
But instead of pulling down the Brutalist concrete clad building, the Friends Of The Central Library say it should be converted and set at the heart of a revived Paradise Forum surrounded by new offices, shops and public spaces.
Their alternative master plan, drawn up by architect Joe Holyoak and Rob Turner, of Eatarchitecture, shows the library at the centre of a cluster of offices, a hotel, a concert venue and two public squares on the eight-acre Paradise Circus island.
It responds to the official plan by asserting that the Central Library is an outstanding piece of architecture of which Birmingham should be proud.
And argues that it is a robust building which, although no longer needed as a library, can be put to a range of alternative uses and that its demolition, less that 40 years after its construction, is a huge waste and against all principals of sustainability.
Mr Holyoak admitted that some of the issues, including any affection for the Central Library, are subjective. “I know it is difficult to like, but it is a great piece of architecture of its time. I cannot easily be dismissed as of no architectural importance as some have suggested.”
He points out that English Heritage have twice recommended it for listing only to have that blocked by Secretaries of State.
“I would take the view of English Heritage over that of politicians,” he adds.
But he says that there are also more objective arguments for the Central Library, including a challenge to a view put about that it is an obstacle to movement through the site and should go.
He argues that the central atrium was designed by John Madin to allow easy movement between Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square and if substantially de-cluttered of all the shops and bars could be modelled into an aspiring open public space.
The Friends of the Library also bemoan the lack of reliable information on the costs of repair, renovation and refurbishment and claim it is easily affordable.
He also challenges the view that retention would limit the scale of wider development and impact on the viability.
“We have deliberately produced a master plan which is very similar to the Argent one in all respects except the retention of the library.
“The offices and other buildings are arranged in a similar way and there are two public squares either side. The only difference is that instead of a street through the centre of the site we have the Library.”
Argent and Altitude, whose plans were unveiled in February, want to replace the Central Library, The Conservatoire and the Copthorne Hotel with up to 1.7 million sq ft of retail, commercial, civic, leisure and hotel space across 12 buildings as well as improving pedestrian access and the public realm with new squares and transforming the highways around Paradise Circus.
Gary Taylor, of Altitude, welcomed the Friends of the Library contribution to the consultation but stressed: “I suspect we will take an opposite view on the Library’.
He said: “We are still listening to feedback from all sorts of sources, stakeholders and interested groups and expect to put in a planning application in late June or early July.
“Some of the responses to consultation have influence our design. We have made significant changes to building heights to lessen the impact on the Town Hall and Chamberlain Square.”
He said that keeping the library, which is bang in the middle of the site, would severely constrain what could be built around it.
“We came to the conclusion that in order to deliver maximum benefit to the city we would need to demolish the library.
"It would make it very difficult to do anything with the buildings around due to the scale and we would end up keeping some of the second rate buildings around it, such as the Copthorne Hotel and its twin office block.
‘‘The development around the library would be of a much smaller scale. It would be less aspirational. While we do take an opposite view to that of the Friends of the Library we have been happy to have this grown-up debate.”