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Houben: ‘Birmingham library designed for unpredictable changes’

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Mecanoo founder Francine Houben has spoken to the AJ about the future of Birmingham’s Stirling Prize-shortlisted library after plans were announced to almost halve its opening hours 

AJ Woman Architect of the Year 2014 Houben, whose practice Mecanoo completed the £188 million library in 2013, said the building had been designed for flexibility and could respond to changes which may result from the council’s proposed funding cuts.

She told the AJ: ‘The world is permanently changing and the Library of Birmingham is designed to absorb unpredictable change in the way that it is used.

Houben added: ‘One thing that my time in the city has shown me - especially since its opening in 2013 - is that the people of Birmingham love their library. It’s firmly part of the cultural and economic spirit of the city and temporary cuts aren’t likely to change that. It’s a place for lifelong learning, and we should never underestimate the value in that.’

Yesterday Birmingham City Council revealed that the popular library would now only open 40 hours a week - a drop from the 73 hours it opens at present.

The changes were set out in the council’s budget report and resource plan which is to go before the authority’s cabinet on 16 February before being rubberstamped by the full council in early March.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Stirling Prize, the library, dubbed the ‘People’s Palace’ has been open for less than two years and is loved by both architects and the public.

More than 4,530 people have signed an online petition calling on the council to rethink the planned cuts, which could also see 90 of the building’s 188 library staff lose their jobs.


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