Coolest Library Ever!

Some people (particularly British ones), when you say you are going to Birmingham on vacation (or Milton Keynes, or Coventry), they ask "Why?". Ok, so Birmingham isn´t quaint in a Midsomer-ish or Downton Abbey-ish way, but it has its charm and a lot to offer. These industrial cities took quite a beating during the war, and were perhaps again victims at the hands of some less classy architectural fashions during the mid- to late 20th Century. There are fine examples of brutalist architecture, but there are too many that hasn´t done humanity any favours at all and some are being pulled down. Birmingham is really pushing the envelope when it comes to innovative architecture and I was so curious to see how the new library had turned out. Yes, we went to Birmingham just to see a library. We saw a lot of other fine things too, but it would have been totally worth it to come all the way from Sweden just to see that library.

We had to pass the old library on our way to the new one, and it looked as dull as every. When I was there in 2009, the site of the new library was just a demolition site - I don´t know what stood there before, but I expect it must have been something ugly. Now, I was just awestruck at what appeared. I imagine they must be very pleased with how it turned out.

When you come inside, it feels a bit like looking up into that spaceship in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". If the old library was a Tomb of Dead Books, this is the Temple of Learning. Very fittingly indeed, it was Malala Yousafzai who opened it in September last year. And it is full of people! Reading, working, talking, eating lunch on the terrace or in the café by the entrance, kissing! and some walking around in wonder, as we were. The building is a magnet.

They have two terraces, and the library even extends underneath the square in front of it. There is a "sunken" stage with a stand built into the pavement above it. When we were there, they had a steel pan orchestra playing old Beatles´ tunes. Everywhere the circle theme is used to give it a coherent aesthetic look. What a great place! If you want to know more, check out their website.

Neighbours: The Hyatt Hotel, The Symphony Hall, The ICC, The Rep.

The view overlooking the town centre.

To the captain´s bridge....

The captain´s bridge The Shakespeare Memorial Room, a reading room
built in 1882 for an earlier, now demolished, city library.

The Secret Garden


  1. I followed your link to pictures of the old library, and it's surprising how that office-furniture-type setting shows up in libraries everywhere._This_ on the other hand... wow! How interesting. It would be a joy to visit. We seem to be developing a new understanding of what a library is for.

    1. You are right, I think this new generation of library-builders have totally expanded our ideas of what a library is for. It´s more like they are re-creating the Forum. This is really a meeting-place, a town square, all focused on expanding knowledge and being creative. Places like this give me hope for the future.

  2. I've been reading this book set in Birmingham, and it does sound a bit dull, but I guess not if it has this. I love the structure and those circles. The Shakespeare Memorial Room is like the library from Beauty and the Beast. How did you ever manage to leave the place? :)

    1. LOL I suppose hunger broke me away from it. A great Indian restaurant, as it happens, Pushkar, which is situated just down the street from the library. No, I could totally see myself living in Birmingham, if I had to choose one English city to base myself in. Midsumer-England is lovely to visit, but I wouldn´t want to live in it. I guess I like the space and comfort of the modern age.