Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Central Library to make way for Paradise Circus development

Paradise Circus Square
Image caption Paradise Circus will be the first development to move forward within Birmingham's new Enterprise Zone

Prince Charles once referred to Birmingham's Central Library as looking like "a place where books are incinerated, not kept".

Now, 40 years after it was built, it is set to be demolished after the city council approved plans to redevelop the site as part of the Paradise Circus scheme, which is estimated to cost about £450m.

About 17 acres of land between Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square will be developed to include offices, shops, leisure and cultural facilities, civic amenities and a hotel.

Lessons from 1960s

People have taken to Twitter to express their opinion on the development and the demolition of a library that has been both loved and hated.

Mark Griffiths, a chartered architect from Stourbridge, tweeted: "central library Birmingham 2 go. Example of an iconic building that suffered from being strangled by poor architecture".

Image caption The 1970s library is due to close next summer

Tom Keely, an architectural writer and editor who grew up in Birmingham and now living in London, said that the new plans were "ugly".

He said: "I love the old library because it is a structure of distinction, it's ambitious and uncompromising. It shows that Birmingham was a city that wasn't afraid of big ideas.

"I get that it might not be everybody's taste, but it stands proud, and was built to be adaptable to a future without books."

"These proposals could be anywhere, they just look like any other bland office/shopping/mixed use development. They don't say anything about Birmingham. They are the epitome of the non-place.

"Surely creative re-use is a much more powerful message? It worked at the Mailbox, the Rotunda, the Tate Modern. Why not the library too?"

'Vital and integral'

The library was designed by Birmingham architect John Madin, who was also behind the city's chamber of commerce headquarters and the BBC's Pebble Mill studios.

A new £189m library is set to open on 3 September, 2013 in Centenary Square.

Project director Rob Groves, of developer Argent, said: "The site's combined qualities of its central location and historic landmarks creates an unrivalled opportunity to create a sustainable, first class environment that will transform this key part of Birmingham city centre."

Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore said: "The redevelopment of Paradise Circus is a vital and integral part of the delivery of Birmingham's Big City Plan.

"It will make a huge and positive contribution to the city's ongoing renaissance... it will also return the city's renowned historic buildings to a more suitable setting in which they can be enjoyed and admired."

In a statement, Keep The Ziggurat, which has been campaigning to save the building, said: "Central Library is a building that divides opinion but, for many people, it forms an essential and positive part of their heritage.

"It is sad that more energy was not invested in trying to find a new use for the structure as we feel this would have been eminently possible and allowed retention of a bold and reassuring civic presence in the centre of the city."

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