Hunter Douglas enhances prized collections at landmark new library

The new Library of Birmingham is one of Europe’s largest new public libraries, housing some important historical collections in a striking and contemporary building.

The impressive 21st Century library in Centenary Square, which includes a recreation of a 19th Century room to accommodate one of the UK’s most important Shakespeare collections, is a showcase of design and architectural innovation.

It includes bespoke solid wood ceiling systems by Hunter Douglas, one of the most prestigious timber-based project the company has undertaken in the UK. The Hunter Douglas systems incorporated in the ground-breaking new building include a wooden grill ceiling, finished in African Ayous, and Unigrid floating ceilings in black and white.

The specially designed Unigrid ceilings are hung from a series of tubes and hooks, ensuring there is no visible grid and maintaining the clean flowing lines of the impressive interior of the library. The building also features Hunter Douglas solid wood grill ceilings in a very large format with lots of curves, cuts and service integrations to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the main public areas of the library.

Hunter Douglas worked closely with contractor Carillion and installers Titan Ceilings to ensure the cutting edge design ethos could be transferred from the drawing board into the finished library.

Patrick Arends, associate architect at Mecanoo, the Dutch company which has designed the new library, said it was important that the building provided a contemporary look and feel and yet fulfilled a very traditional function.

“We aimed to show the unity of the building using the interwoven patterns,” explained Mr Arends, who has been based in Birmingham for much of the three-year construction project.

“The book rotunda is a very traditional way of displaying books. It is a circular space with three floors height and when you enter the space from below by escalator, and walk through the building, you will be surrounded by books and see all the books around you.”

The Library of Birmingham is a BREEAM excellent rated building and although it is a transparent building, it maintains energy efficiency through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria. Sun shading and reflective materials within the facades block the harsh rays of the sun during the height of afternoon while allowing natural daylight into the interiors. The building also incorporates a mixed mode and natural ventilation strategy.

Francine Houben, Mecanoo’s Founding Partner, describes her design for the Library of Birmingham as the People’s Palace.

“The design was inspired by the energy of this great city,” she added. “I hope that the adventure of going through the building will draw many more people towards the joy of learning and reading, and even just to simply experience the pleasure of social interaction that a great public space can provide.”

Centenary Square is the largest public square in the heart of Birmingham. Mecanoo’s design transforms the square into one with three distinct realms: monumental, cultural and entertainment.

Elevators and escalators dynamically placed in the heart of the library forms connections between the eight circular spaces within the building. These rotundas play an important role not only in the routing through the library but also provide natural light and ventilation.

The rooftop rotunda houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, designed in 1882. This Victorian reading room is lined with wood from the first Birmingham Central Library.

The Hunter Douglas ceiling systems are an integral part of the design of this striking interior and the overall aims of the project.

Hunter Douglas wood ceilings introduce a beautiful and organic element that fits in a wide variety of applications.

The ceiling panels feature durable construction, solid wood for the linear systems and a choice of different veneers and a selection of acoustical and decorative perforations for the company’s tile solutions.