Page last updated at 21:00 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 22:00 UK

Dutch designer chosen for library

Birmingham Central Library
Prince Charles has been among the critics of the old library

A Dutch architect has been chosen to design Birmingham's new library.

Council leaders said Francine Houben, who runs Mecanoo, had the potential to produce a "world-class building" in Centenary Square.

The city council has said the present building in Paradise Place is outdated and wants to replace it with a 193m library and "cultural hub".

It said the library "will happen" even though English Heritage is trying to get the 1974 library listed status.

If the organisation succeeds, it will be impossible for the council to demolish the building.

But city council leader Mike Whitby said: "Whatever happens concerning the old library, this library will happen.

'International pedigree'

"We have submitted our representation to the Secretary of State and she will make some decision.

"But whatever happens there, this library is going to happen."

The current library was once referred to by Prince Charles as looking like "a place where books are incinerated, not kept".

Seven design firms were shortlisted for the project, but Mr Whitby said Mecanoo "stood out".

It's not only an academic, abstract, beautiful building, but I really want to make it a people's palace. That's my dream
Francine Houben

The firm has previously designed library and arts centres including the National Kaohsiung Performing Arts Centre in Taiwan, and the Library for the Technical University in Delft, The Netherlands.

It was also responsible for the Learning Centre for the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, which revolves at 15 degrees an hour - the same speed as the Earth.

Designs for the new building are expected to be revealed in mid-2009.

Construction work is expected to start in 2010 and the building is scheduled to open in 2013.

The city council is due to announce which building firm has been chosen to carry out the work by the end of the year.

Mr Whitby said: "With their creativity, vision, experience and international pedigree, I believe Mecanoo are the perfect choice to help us deliver an innovative world-class building, which the people of Birmingham can be truly proud of."

'Classic building'

Ms Houben said: "Mecanoo loves to create unforgettable collective spaces, inside and outside.

"It is a challenge to realise this major project on Centenary Square.

"It's not only an academic, abstract, beautiful building, but I really want to make it a people's palace. That's my dream."

Dr Terry Slater, from the Geography department at the University of Birmingham, said he could understand why some people think the old library should be preserved.

"It's a classic building from the late 1960s, 1970s - a period that architectural historians call brutalism," he said.

"Many consider this is probably one of the finest brutalist buildings anywhere in Britain, so it has a value."


The library is set to be the biggest in Europe

Deadline for saving library plan
11 Jul 08 |  West Midlands
Firms for library build revealed
03 Jul 08 |  West Midlands
195m cultural centre is unveiled
12 Oct 07 |  West Midlands
Plans for city library unveiled
04 Sep 06 |  West Midlands


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