Birmingham Central Library

The Birmingham Central Library opened in 1974 and was for a time the largest non-national library in Europe. Designed by architect John Madin in the brutalist style, the library won praise for its inverted ziggurat form, but it did not meet with the approval of HRH Prince Charles, who described it as looking like “a place where books are incinerated, not kept”.

The library was part of a masterplan for the newly created Paradise Circus site, which also included a School of Music, a Drama Centre, an Athletic Institute, offices, shops, public house, a car park with 500 spaces, and a bus interchange. These were to be connected by high level walkways. In the event, only the School of Music and Yardbird pub were ever built, and the walkways were never completed. Spending cuts led to the Council selling off land surrounding the library, ending hope of the site being occupied by a publicly-owned civic complex.

The library’s atrium was enclosed with a glass roof and screens around 1990, and the space below was named Paradise Forum. It was intended that this become an alfresco eating and entertainment area, but it was eventually leased to property companies who in turn sublet the units to shops and fast food outlets.

In the late 1990s, Paradise Circus was sold to property developers, and the Council began to investigate relocating the library, After a number of proposals had fallen through, work finally started in 2010 on a new Library of Birmingham, located next to the Rep Theatre. The Central Library closed at the end of June 2013.

The building could have been refurbished and put to other uses, but proposals came to nothing. The Council thwarted all attempts to have it listed, and demolition commenced in August 2015.

The library in September 2009

August 2013, shortly after closure.

Above: August 2013, showing visible signs of dilapidation.
Below: June 2016, demolition in progress.


Author: prehistorian

Prehistorian & author