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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Wooden Boy: Bus note 39


New library, city centre, Birmingham, UK: photo by feltip1982, 18 January 2013

        Sitting the wrong way on bus.
        Hagley Rd going off from this point
then Broad St where with evening come
explosive coloured vomit patches
to be covered in the whitest drift.
        Pull up at the new library,
        where once I was to work,
        very big, gold topped and empty.

Wooden Boy: Bus note 39, from The Little Wooden Boy, Saturday 2 February 2013

Architect John Madin, designer of Birmingham's Central Library in the 1960s, and characterized by architectural critics as the "master of post-war architecture in Birmingham", has criticized the old library's new £193 million replacement as a waste of money. In an interview with the
Birmingham Mail, 21 March 2011, Madin said: “They are spending all this money on a new library which is no better than the existing one. Eighty per cent of it will not have natural light and [it] does not meet the standards of the existing building. They asked me to do the design [for the old library] and now they are simply knocking it down. I just think it’s disgraceful.”

New library, city centre, Birmingham, UK, viewed from The Cube: photo by feltip1982, 19 January 2013

City centre, viewed from The Cube, with new library (seen at right), Birmingham, UK: photo by feltip1982, 19 January 2013

View from The Cube into city centre, Birmingham, UK: photo by feltip1982, 19 January 2013

Taxis at Broad Street, Birmingham, UK: photo by ArUK5, 7 March 2012

Broad Street, Birmingham, UK: photo by ArUK5, 8 January 2012

Acocks Green bus station, south Birmingham, UK, at 4 a.m.: photo by Karen Strunks for the 4 a.m. project, 18 February 2011


TC said...

When the present installment was first posted three days ago, I commented chez WB -- who knows whereof he speaks, having worked as a librarian in this city which is his native precinct and abiding subject -- regarding the construction of the new library. It did seem odd to me, as an outsider, that architect John Madin's old Central Library, in fact the largest non-national library in Europe, should need replacing not forty years after it was built -- and by this gigantic 200 million quid postmodern perfume box, which looks curiously out of place (not to mention extremely ugly) in an urban landscape whose industrial-epoch history, the canals and barges and bricks, can still be detected in the overhead views here.

"John Madin's project was subject to resistance almost from the beginning," WB replied. "The council cut costs during the building of the library against the wishes of Madin himself. It wasn't quite the structure he'd planned for. Nevertheless, the [old] Central Library is one of the few buildings with real drama and distinction in our town.

"Given the destruction of vast amounts of the current bookstock, the postmodern pile could be close to empty on the day of the grand opening.

"Some more of that background information: Broad St is a long stretch of lousy nite clubs and bars where the City sets out to get as drunk as the English can. It can be a frightening place of a Friday night. Of course, the clue is in those patches."

The poems in this compelling series are firmly rooted in the facts of the place, and the place in turn gains stability and location from the poems.

This is extremely consoling, the truth content.

And talking as we were a moment ago of weather... here's today's outlook for the site of the present poem and photos:

West Midlands
Forecast Summary


A rather cloudy start, with outbreaks of rain, sleet or hill snow during the morning. Mainly dry through the afternoon, with sunny spells developing. A cold day, with strong winds gradually easing in the afternoon.


A clear and cold night with temperatures falling quickly through the evening to give a widespread frost. Winds will continue to ease.

Anonymous said...

firmly rooted...yes...!

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

After looking at WB’s fine little poem and the photographs of what can only be described as an abomination where one would expect to find anything but a book, I’m beginning to have second thoughts about that famous maxim of Modernism “out with the old, in with the new”. Mercy, I say.

Nin Andrews said...

There seems to be some need to keep building that makes no sense. Tax incentives? Here they keep building despite the fact that the economy is dead, and the old buildings remain, these huge shells.

There used to be this very homey library, modest and appropriately sized for the community. But then they built this Taj Mahal of a library--it is quite a nice space in some ways, but there aren't enough books to fill it. And there's a statue of girl out front, and her book is --how can I explain this--it's a fountain. I remember thinking--wow, that's not an auspicious idea. A year after it was built, the building flooded.

Nora said...

"Gold topped and empty." Lovely.

Dalriada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wooden Boy said...

Thank you, all.

And thank you, TC, for those wonderful images of my home town.

There's a lot of modernist architecture I like. Birmingham's trouble stems from a chaotic approach to town planning - wild shifts in style on the same street. There are still occasional gems to be found.