After the picket and failed ambush of the prime minister yesterday, I was somewhat at a loss for things to do. I'm so institutionalised from spending 12 hours a day at work. In the end, like Homer Simpson looking for an all-you-can-eat fish restaurant
I went to Birmingham to visit the new library, just to be surrounded by comforting books. And to admire the architecture of course. I was pleased by the centrality of books: this might seem weird, but modern libraries often seem a bit down on boring old dead trees. My university library isn't called a Library any more: it's a Learning Centre, and you don't see any books from ground level.
And yet… while aspects of the new Birmingham Library are striking, I couldn't help feeling that it's a little lacking architecturally: it reminded me very strongly of the Selfridge's store across town, internally at least. I wasn't convinced by the decorative cladding, though I liked the furniture and multiple vantage points across the city (though I'd recommend they move Welsh-language material out of the 'foreign language' section). And it's a definite improvement on the previous library: a Brutalist structure which didn't exactly welcome anybody. I like Brutalism, but that place's dark, forbidding and decaying skin resembled an incinerator rather than a library.
Some pictures (rest here). Click to enlarge.