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Birmingham follows Peckham to book new £60m library

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Just a fortnight after Peckham Library scooped the Stirling Prize, Birmingham City Council has revealed plans to launch an architectural competition for its own £60 million library.

Council chiefs are planning to demolish the decrepit late-1960s library in the city centre and replace it with a new building in a new 'heritage and learning quarter' in the east of the city. In an effort to produce 'a library for the twenty-first century' the council is planning a major design competition, said chief planner Emrys Jones.

Jones said it will be one of the biggest libraries in Europe at 20,000m2 and will match the architectural ambition of Seattle, where Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is due to complete a library of a similar scale in 2003.

'We are determined to create a library for the twenty-first century, ' Jones said.'It's interesting that Peckham should win the Stirling Prize at the same time as we consider this.'

The scheme looks set to be a second major new landmark building for the city after planners awarded permission to Future Systems' futuristic design for a new Selfridges department store in October.The new library will also integrate the music school which shares the existing Central Library building, designed by John Madin Design Group. The lifts in the library have failed and the cladding is falling off, Jones said.

However, RIBA regional chairman John Kirwan warned that moving the library to the so-called Eastside area could isolate it from the citizens.

'Eastside is locked off from the city centre, 'he said.'It is only 10 minutes walk but the areas are divided by a major road.'

The council has also announced plans to redevelop the site on which the existing library stands as part of a £900 million development called Paradise Circus. Council leader Albert Bore is leading attempts to secure investment from private developers and a partner is expected to be picked in the next three months.The majority of the development will be offices and hotel accommodation.

Separately, architect HOK will this month submit a planning application to replace Birmingham's NatWest Tower with a 'stunning, contemporary' building, Bore said. Project architect Paul Scott said that the new design would not be a tower, but declined to reveal any more details.

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