Builders to get go-ahead for Library of Birmingham

By on 14/12/2009 in News

Birmingham City Council *will today* give final approval for building work to begin in January on the new Library of Birmingham.

The Council's Cabinet will be asked to approve a formal instruction to lead contractor, local firm Carillion, to begin building work in January 2010.

Under the contract with Carillion, a 'fixed lump sum' price has now been agreed for the construction which means that the contractor, not the Council, will have to bear any costs should building work go over budget. The City Council also announced significant savings for the project despite no reduction in quality.

In addition to this the Cabinet will be asked to grant the REP theatre a new 100 year lease, securing the long-term legacy of one of Birmingham's major cultural landmarks.

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said; “This is a major stride towards the realisation of a world-class Library for Birmingham. It marks another significant chapter in Birmingham's Library story.

“Our commitment to a new City Library, in conjunction with the recent Certificate of Immunity from Listing, proves once again how cultural developments are underpinning civic pride and yet acting as a catalyst for new regeneration.

“The fixed lump sum we will be taking to Cabinet not only guarantees the cost of the project, but also the high-quality of workmanship. In addition to this we have driven in to the project major savings making the project even better value for money.

“By bringing together the very finest contractors, architects and library professionals in the world we are more confident than ever in our ability to deliver an iconic building which will set new standards around the world for how libraries are built and used in the 21st Century.

The library will occupy a prime site on Centenary Square between the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) and Baskerville House and is a major flagship for the regeneration of the city which will create 250 construction jobs including at least 25 local apprenticeships.

Integrated with The REP at ground floor and mezzanine levels, it will create a unique centre for learning, information and culture which is anticipated to attract up to 10,000 visitors a day, doubling the current figure of almost 5000 per day at the existing Central Library and making it one of the busiest libraries in Europe.

A grand circular open-air amphitheatre in front of the building will create a dramatic visual link between the Library at Lower Ground Level and Centenary Square, providing natural light and a sheltered outdoor space for staging events.

A generous shared entrance to the Library and The REP will be sheltered below a public balcony, creating a magnificent space to watch events in the square. Above the balcony, the building volume steps away, creating a second open-air space, an elevated garden with spectacular views over the city.

The new building has been designed to function flexibly around rapidly developing new digital technologies, creating new opportunities for learning and access. New exhibition galleries will showcase for the first time the library’s outstanding and internationally important archives and special collections. Treasures include one of the world’s largest Shakespeare libraries, including a rare copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the archive of the Matthew Boulton and James Watt steam engine partnership, an excellent collection of early and fine printing, and extensive photographic archives, including the work of Sir Benjamin Stone, Francis Bedford and Francis Frith.


For more information please contact Simon Houltby: 0121 303 3503

Notes to editors:

Chronology of Project:

– October 2007 - Library of Birmingham project launched following Cabinet approval for full business case. Council Leader hosts VIP event at Birmingham REP Theatre featuring local artists, poets and actor Simon Callow.

– August 2008 - Dutch based Mecanoo Architecten chosen from short-list of seven internationally renowned practices to design the Library.

– November 2008 - Wolverhampton based Carillion appointed lead construction contractor.

– April 2009 - Three-day public exhibition and VIP events to unveil concept design

– April 2009 – Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Mike Whitby and RIBA co-host Birmingham reception for leading UK architectural figures to discuss Library of Birmingham designs

– November 2009 - Central Library granted 'immunity from listing' by DCMS, paving way for the regeneration of Paradise Forum once the library has been relocated.

– November 2009 - Library of Birmingham granted detailed planning permission

– January 2010 - Building work to commence

– 2013 - Library of Birmingham to open.

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