Going Dutch

Going Dutch

Birmingham City Council announces Netherlands based Mecanoo as Library of Birmingham architect

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, today revealed Mecanoo as the architect chosen to design Birmingham’s new library, integrated with The REP, in Centenary Square.

The Netherlands-based architect was one of seven international firms shortlisted to work on the £193 million project, which will combine the new library and The REP to create a unique centre for knowledge, learning and culture.

Francine Houben, Founding Partner and Creative Director of the Dutch firm, today joined Councillor Whitby in Birmingham for the announcement.

Cllr Mike 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.

“Their enthusiasm for and understanding of the project, coupled with a track record for delivering visually stunning yet user-friendly buildings, really made them stand out among those shortlisted.

“Getting the design of this building right is of the utmost importance as not only will the new development be unique within this country but, as a combined cultural centre, it will be of international relevance. And we see it as integral to the Big City Plan – our twenty year vision for Birmingham’s future.”

Mecanoo has designed many highly original library, learning and arts centre buildings including National Kaohsiung Performing Arts Centre in Taiwan (pictured above), and the Library for the Technical University in Delft. One design, the Learning Center for the Ecole Polytechnique, in Lausanne, reveloves at 15 degrees per hour – the same speed as the Earth.

Houben’s renowned firm has won no less than fourteen major architectural awards since it began in the early 1980s. These include two coveted Dedalo Minosse International prizes, most recently for their work on business innovation centre FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegan, Netherlands, earlier this year, so named because of its location at 52 degrees latitude. The other was for the Montevideo skyscraper, in Rotterdam, which also scooped an International Highrise award, a National Steel Construction prize and a City of Rotterdam Building Quality prize in 2006.

Francine Houben said: “We are excited to have been selected to design a building destined to become the social heart of Birmingham. Mecanoo loves to create unforgettable collective spaces, inside and outside. It is a challenge to realise this major project in Centenary Square. We hope to create a people’s palace, warm and welcoming. I hope it will be loved by the Birmingham citizens.”

The REP’s Executive Director, Stuart Rogers said: “We are delighted that Mecanoo will be designing the new Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Repertory Theatre building. It’s clear from the range of highly imaginative and beautiful projects that they have created that they are one of the world’s most exciting and orginal architectural practises. We are greatly looking forward to working with Francine and her team to create the high quality building that reflects the ambition of this unique project and of Birmingham in general.

The groundbreaking project, managed by Capita Symonds, will be developed on land adjoining The REP, with the library and theatre joining together and sharing a number of facilities including a foyer, cafe/restaurant, meeting rooms and a new 350 seat auditorium to complement the theatre’s two existing auditoria.

The new building will also include purpose-designed study areas; new exhibition spaces; and state of the art interactive displays, allowing public access to the city’s world-famous collections of archive and heritage material.

Birmingham-based engineers, Buro Happold, and design co-ordinators, Davis Langdon Schuman Smith, will be working with Mecanoo to deliver the project. An announcement on the chosen contractor is expected before the end of the year.

Designs for the new building will be revealed by mid 2009, with construction to begin in 2010 and the building to open in 2013.