Library of Birmingham celebrates Topping Out

By on 14/09/2011 in News

Today, 14 September 2011, Councillor Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, laid the last piece of concrete on the highest point of the new Library of Birmingham at the official Topping Out ceremony. This is a significant marker in the construction of the new £188.8 million building, due to open in 2013.

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “I am thrilled to be celebrating the Topping Out of the Library of Birmingham, a major milestone in the construction of a very significant new building for Birmingham.

“For the people working on the site, and with the project, today is a day of celebration and reflection on the formidable progress we have made. Whilst for the people of Birmingham today is about showing everyone the scale of our ambition – and hopefully giving them a flavour of just how incredible our new Library will be.

“Through the new Library of Birmingham not only are we re-defining the role of the Library in the 21st century, we are proving that Arts and Culture can be a powerful catalyst for economic regeneration as well. The fact the project is already employing 800 people, and should hopefully lever in the associated developments to employ thousands more, is a formidable success story for the city.”

Mike Whitby was helped by Buta Singh Mahal, 34, from Smethwick, who has worked on the site since building work began in February 2010, when he first mixed the concrete for the foundations to be laid. He also mixed the concrete used for the Topping Out today.

The Topping Out took place on the roof of the rotunda on the summit of the building, which will eventually house the Shakespeare Memorial Room, originally a feature in the Victorian Library and currently in Birmingham Central Library. Giles Taylor, a member of the Company of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, began the ceremony by reading two Shakespeare quotes suggested by members of the public in a competition on Twitter. The Shakespeare Memorial Room will be located alongside a viewing gallery giving panoramic views across the city.

The Topping Out was also celebrated with construction partner Carillion and marked by the first performances in the Library's outdoor amphitheatre in Centenary Square, with an appearance by Black Voices, led by Carol Pemberton, a Face of the new Library of Birmingham, and by members of the company from the REP, who performed extracts from Shakespeare and from their current production, Tom Stoppard's 'Travesties'.

Designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo, the Library of Birmingham will comprise 10 levels, with nine above ground and a lower ground floor. It is being constructed using 21,000m3 of concrete in the frame, enough to fill more than eight Olympic sized swimming pools. The frame is reinforced by 3,000 tonnes of steel, the equivalent weight of around 35,750 average UK men. Thirty thousand metres cubed of material, enough to fill 60,000 bath tubs, had to be dug out of the basement. There is a core workforce of 800 people building the Library and in total it is expected that 1.6 million person hours will be expended on the project.

In July the Library of Birmingham celebrated the 100th person supported into work on the project by the Birmingham City Council's Employment Access Team. Birmingham City Council set clear employment and training targets for the project, aiming to recruit 250 local unemployed people for work and apprenticeships. So far, 71 people have secured jobs as labourers and qualified tradesmen such as carpenters, steelfixers, scaffolders and plantsmen.

Other opportunities have included site administration, trainee mechanical and electrical engineer and trainee ductwork erector. Thirty-nine apprentices have also been recruited and the Employment Access Team are supporting 10 more young people into Carillion’s November 2011 Apprenticeship intake. Carillion are working with Business Action on the Homeless offering work experience opportunities, which can then lead on to full time employment via the Employment Access Team – the 100th person came through this process and secured a labouring job with Titan Ceilings.

The building will feature a spacious entrance and foyer with mezzanine, the gateway to both the Library and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, to which the new Library will be physically connected. There will also be a new flexible studio theatre, a lower ground level with indoor terraces, four further public levels and two outdoor elevated garden terraces.

A ‘golden box’ of secure archive storage will occupy two levels of the building, within which the city's internationally significant collection of archives, photography and rare books will be stored. A new state-of-the-art exhibition space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. The exterior of the building, from the first to the eighth floor will be wrapped with an intricate metal façade, echoing the gasometers, tunnels, canals and viaducts which fuelled Birmingham's industrial growth.

For more information about the Library go to .


Notes to editors

For more information and images please contact Sarah Watson or Ellie Backhouse at Colman Getty on 020 7631 2666 (m: 07871 641552) or on /

About the Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham will be a major new cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries. It opens in 2013.

The Library of Birmingham will provide a showcase for the city's internationally important collections of archives, photography and rare books. New facilities including state-of-the-art gallery space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. It will also be home to a BFI Mediatheque, providing free access to the National Film Archive. Other facilities will include a new flexible studio theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre and other informal performance spaces, a recording studio, and dedicated spaces for children and teenagers. By harnessing new technology, everyone from Birmingham to Beijing, Bangalore and beyond will be able to access the Library of Birmingham's world-class resources. More than three million visitors are expected each year, and millions more online.

Described by its architect Francine Houben as a 'people's palace', the Library of Birmingham will be highly accessible and family-friendly. It will deliver excellent services through collaboration between the library, The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, partners and communities. It will provide a dynamic mix of events, activities and performance together with outstanding resources, exhibitions and access to expert help for learning, information and culture. As a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, entrepreneurship, creative expression, health information and much more, the Library of Birmingham will change people's lives.


Carillion is a leading support services company with a substantial portfolio of Public Private Partnership projects and extensive construction capabilities.  The Group had annual revenue in 2010 of £5.1 billion, employs around 50,000 people and operates across the UK, in the Middle East and Canada.

Tags: , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.