The Library of Birmingham was opened in 2013 by the city’s most celebrated resident, the Nobel Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, who said, “Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one teacher can change the world.”
"Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one teacher can change the world" Malala Yousafzai
Walking through Birmingham is a visual reminder of how much the city has changed over the past five years… Many of its iconic concrete buildings have been demolished and replaced by innovative new structures, such as the new library, and New Street Station, as part of the ‘Big City Plan’ redevelopment.
We were able to follow a pedestrian route from the station through beautiful squares lined with grand Victorian buildings, to the canal district which is home to the Ikon Gallery. Antony Gormley’s Iron:Man in Victoria Square leads the way; his imposing iron bulk standing at 20-foot tall, which according to Gormley is a graphic reminder of “…the traditional skills of Birmingham and the Black Country practiced during the Industrial Revolution.”
Birmingham Rep is a dramatic Sixties structure made up of flamboyant concrete arches, which are echoed to some extent by the interlocking metal rings of the New Library, designed by Dutch practice Mecanoo. The exterior of the building is clad in shimmering gold, silver and glass, while the filigree pattern of metal rings was designed to cast intricate shadows on the building’s interiors.
Outside the Library of Birmingham, in the centre of Centenary Square, is Gillian Wearing’s new sculpture, A Real Birmingham Family. It represents Ikon’s four-year project with Birmingham-born, Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing: a quest to find a ‘real’ Birmingham family and immortalise it in bronze.
As we walked past the sculpture, a small girl dressed in pink was being photographed by her grandmother with the Real Birmingham Family. The sculpture was completed in October 2014 and within the space of six months it has become something of a ritual for Birmingham families to be photographed next to it. Certain parts of the sculpture have already been worn smooth and shiny from being touched and held by curious visitors and local residents.