Birmingham City Council has been talking boldly about its determination to rid Birmingham City Centre of its brutalist library. Meanwhile, the library, architectural honesty taken to extremes, may achieve listed status.
Air time has been given to Councillor Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, stating that whatever happens, a new library will be built and at £193m it represents good value for money. Taken at face value, this means that if the current library is protected from demolition, it would be left standing empty. Whilst all of this bluster has been the deliberate face of the scheme, behind the scenes dark dealings have been going on. Journalist Paul Dale writing in The Birmingham Post exposed the identity of the Developer that has been involved in the deal on the Central Library prime development site. More interestingly than exposing that it was Argent, is the news that the whole of Paradise Circus is involved and the current office block housing ‘Government Office of West Midlands’ would also go.
In a classic case of overpaid inaction, although many salaried council employees were involved in the meetings, no one took notes. To most, the lack of records of a meeting appear to indicate a lack of organisation and laziness. The council’s lawyer put it in a new light and in shades of ‘Mission Impossible’ (this tape will self destruct in 30 seconds) told the Birmingham Post that no notes were taken because the matter was so sensitive.
There can be no doubting that there are defects in the current buildings: Cyclists sometimes peddle through the Atrium scattering sluggish pedestrians, The Copthorne Hotel apparently has no air conditioning, the library has had no refit in years, the link to the College of Food and Tourism passes abandoned flowerbeds, a newly installed railway ballast beach – and the rest. The trouble is, what was a grand project a few years ago, required massive energy input to quarry the materials, process the cement in the kilns, manufacture everything from kitchens to window frames. All that embodied energy will not have been justified if the complex is demolished.
Questions are already asked about the number and nature of the new flats in Birmingham City Centre and perhaps mistakes have been made there. Could this be another big blunder ?
If the fate of the library and Paradise Circus is to have a happy outcome, the decisions need to involve the public and not be by bureaucrats writing on rice paper in invisible ink.