The seven architects shortlisted to design the “Library of Birmingham with Repertory Theatre” in Centenary Square would be well advised to take the grand promises of councillor Whitby and his senior advisers with a large pinch of salt.
Despite continuing uncertainty about where the £193m construction cost will come from, the lack of a detailed brief and the absence even of outline drawings, they insist that the new building will open to the public on 17 December 2011! They plan to sell the land on which the present library stands to a developer, hence the need to speak with such apparent certainty about its replacement. It also explains why the council has trotted out an endless list of faults that it claims justify the building’s demolition, none of which stands close scrutiny. Whitby views the distinct possibility of the library being listed with utter contempt.
When Whitby’s Conservatives were in opposition they went along with the Labour proposal designed by Lord Rogers that was located in Eastside because the Centenary Square site was considered too small at that time. Whitby pulled the plug on that scheme when he took over the council in 2004 because the money could not be found. His alternative, known as the split-site scheme, also bit the dust amid much public ridicule. Not one to give up, Whitby has now returned to the site that was once thought too small but is now deemed capable of squeezing in a world-class library only if it shares some facilities with a neighbouring repertory theatre that is neither world class nor financially well endowed.
Those who want to hear the other side of the story should to talk to us, Friends of the Central Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Clawley, secretary, Friends of the Central Library