Library of Birmingham ©Wilson Yau
Birmingham Central Libraryhas had dramatic transformation over the years. From the original Victorian structure, to the Brutalist-style building of the 70’s, a new library structure renamed Library of Birmingham has reopened. Designed by Dutch architect Francine Houben.
Photographs from our collection showcase the changing face of this historic attraction.
Atrium, Birmingham Central Library, 1974. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Record of the past
Birmingham Central Library was designed by John Madin, who played a major role in the post-war development of Birmingham. The Brutalist building was built in 1974 to replace the much smaller Victorian Birmingham Reference Library which was demolished soon after. Madin’s master plan for the area was never truly realised, though the Library itself was built. Beneath the library, where the collection of fast food outlets of Paradise Forum are now, was once meant to be a light-filled public atrium surrounded by pools and fountains.
Birmingham Central Library, designed by John Madin © Wilson Yau
Demolishing Birmingham Central Library
The reasons given today to support demolishing everything on the site of the current library are very similar to the ones given in 1974 to remove its Classical-style predecessor: it is no longer fit for purpose, the architecture is out of date, and it stands in the way of progress. For now it remains standing and is open to the public.
Inside Library of Birmingham © Wilson Yau
Opened in 2013The Library of Birmingham opened in April 2013 on it's new site at Centenary Square. It is a flagship project for the city's redevelopment, and described as not just the largest library in the UK, but also the largest public cultural space in Europe.
We are lucky to have historic photographs in our collection documenting the former library building, as well as some great images of what it looks like today.