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Central courtyard is now a thriving urban space!

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I read with interest the letter from James Dunnett, 'Where's the civic pride this city used to have?'(AJ 21.3.02), and particularly the call for the Central Library in Birmingham to be listed.

Some 30 years ago, the library occupied very much a 'city edge' position, directly adjacent to the Inner Ring Road and in close proximity to redundant industrial land and a decaying canal system. The library's central courtyard created a cavernous windswept wilderness at street level, locked in by the ring road to the west, which was navigable only through similarly uninviting pedestrian subways. The courtyard was not a particularly appealing place to be in - if you weren't going to the library, you didn't go there.

Brave urban regeneration schemes by the city during the 1980s and '90s, which included the construction of the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and Brindleyplace developments, also brought about the restructuring of the strangling ring road system. Pedestrians now move freely between the recently pedestrianised New Street via bridges rather than subways.

It is not accidental in planning terms that the Central Library benefits from sitting directly on this route. The central courtyard, for all its 'tacky collection of fastfood outlets', now works as a thriving urban space - when first opened it did not.

Finally, let's not forget that 'civic pride' was first lost in Birmingham back in the 1960s and '70s, when the beautifully crafted (but unfortunately never listed) city library was demolished to make way for the existing building.

David Rollason, London

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