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Urban design guru backs new library design

An interview by Ian Halstead

Grand Designs guru Kevin McCloud has given the thumbs-up to Birmingham’s new library.

It’s the first time the high-profile critic has commented on the design for the £193 million building, by Dutch architects Mecanoo.

Kevin was in the city - ahead of this weekend’s Grand Designs Live exhibition, at the NEC - and visited the library’s Centenary Square construction site.

The building, due for completion in 2013, was designed by Francine Houben, Mecanoo’s founding partner and creative director.

“I like her, and her work, and it will be very interesting to see how the building sits alongside Baskerville House, and The REP,” said Kevin.

“When the old library is demolished, we will be able to see from Victoria Square, past the wonderful Town Hall, towards the memorial, and to the new library. “

“When I was first shown the design of the new building, and the construction site, from the 25th floor of nearby Alpha Tower, the first thing I thought was: ’Goodness me, that is big‘.

”To me, Francine is following the scale and the style which I associate with Birmingham, of heroic, solid and well-crafted buildings.

“You don’t become a great international city by simply saying that you are one. You need to be true to your history, your origins and your roots, and the new library is certainly in keeping with everything that is Birmingham.”

The Mecanoo design’s most controversial element is its metal filigree, which reflects Birmingham’s manufacturing traditions.

“If Francine is brilliant, and I think she is, then she will make the trellis work. Let’s wait to see if it works, and if it shimmers as she believes. If it does, it will be fantastic,” said Kevin.

The Library of Birmingham