We believe that John Madin’s Central Library building (Birmingham, UK), could and should be saved - below is our current manifesto, outlining the reasons why and the actions we think the Council should take.
1 Although the Central Library was vacated in June 2013 and is no longer a library, the building is still recognised nationally and internationally as a building of special architectural and historical significance 1.
2 The building has a strong presence in its location and was carefully designed and sited by the late John Madin to respect its historical neighbours, the Town Hall, Council House, Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory.
3 The Council’s proposal to demolish the Central Library emanates from a decision made in 1999 to comprehensively develop the Paradise Circus site; this policy required all the existing buildings and structures to be demolished regardless of their age, condition or architectural merit.
4 Gradual or piecemeal development is a preferable and more sustainable alternative that makes use of existing buildings and develops unused parts of the site as market conditions and resources allow.
5 There is a growing public appreciation of Brutalist architecture as exemplified by the Central Library and a number of significant Brutalist buildings have now been statutorily listed 2.
6 A number of student projects have demonstrated that the building could be refurbished and adapted for many alternative uses whilst retaining its architectural significance 3.
7 Friends of the Central Library has published an Alternative Master Plan that demonstrates the feasibility of retaining the Central Library whilst redeveloping the rest of the site 4.
WE CALL ON THE CITY COUNCIL
1 To adopt a new policy of gradual development that will allow the Library to be retained in the redevelopment of Paradise Circus.
2 To undertake a wide-ranging study of suitable new uses for the former Library building and publish the results.
3 To advertise the former Library on the open market for sale or lease with vacant possession for the purpose of retention, refurbishment and suitable re-use.
1 English Heritage recommended statutory listing in 2002 and 2007 and the World Monuments Fund put it onto its list of endangered cultural monuments in 2011 along with the South Bank Centre and Preston Bus Station.
2 Park Hill, Moore Street Sub-station, and Preston Bus Station are Brutalist buildings that are now listed. English Heritage’s exhibition ‘Brutal and Beautiful - Saving the Twentieth Century’ opened in London in September 2013.
3 At our symposium entitled ‘Alternatives to Demolition’ on 17 May 2012, four outstanding architectural and planning postgraduate studies were presented that showed convincingly how the building could be conserved and adapted to new uses.
4 To demonstrate how the building could easily be incorporated in the redevelopment plans of Paradise Circus Joe Holyoak and Rob Turner presented their Alternative Master Plan at our symposium. The images showed that, once the clutter of Paradise Forum had been removed, pedestrians were free to flow through the concourse under the library and the Council House Clock could be fully seen again. Gary Taylor (Altitude), Richard Groves (Argent) and their architect Glenn Howells attended the meeting and publicly praised FCL on its ‘grown-up’ campaign. The launch of the Alternative Master Plan was featured by Neil Elkes in the Post with a headline of Library at heart of an alternative vision of Paradise. Gary Taylor is quoted saying that the development around the library would be of a much smaller scale [in our plan] and less aspirational. In a back-handed compliment he said that while Argent took an opposite view to that of the Friends of the Library he had been happy to have ‘this grown-up debate’.