2014 08 29  Libraries are the most important public buildings

"Libraries are the most important public buildings"

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29.08.2013

After completing Europe's largest public library in Birmingham, architect Francine Houben of Dutch studio Mecanoo spoke to Dezeen about the role of the library in the digital age and claims libraries are as central to society as cathedrals once were.

"Libraries are the most important public buildings, like cathedrals were many years ago," she said, explaining how Mecanoo designed the Birmingham building as a "people's palace". She added: "We wanted it to be very inviting and welcoming, not just about books. It's not just for the rich or the intellectuals, it's for everybody."

The building comprises a stack of four rectangular volumes that include a sunken Amphitheatre, rooftop gardens and a shimmering facade clad with interlocking metal rings. Part of the library extends beneath a public square, while reading rooms branch out from a staggered rotunda.

"I didn't want to make a brick building, because we needed a lot of light, but I didn't want to make a glass building either," said the architect. "It's so beautiful to sit here because of the reflections and the shadows, and the changing of the weather. It's different from December to June."

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