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As a new exhibition opens celebrating Birmingham's Central Library, Barbara Panvel wonders whether it should be viewed as a classic or a carbuncle......

Most of Britain's town and city centres were demolished in the 60s and 70s and replaced by poorly built rectangular constructions. Birmingham's Central Library is an exception.

It has blended remarkably well with the Victorian structures in Chamberlain Square. Architects and town planners who consider it ‘a twentieth century architectural icon' are opening an exhibition about the building on the first floor at 11am on 1st September.

The building's achievement is all the more noticeable because in the years since it was constructed the cloning of our towns and cities has intensified - with supermarket chains building on public parks and playing fields, despite their massive land holdings, and making one high street look just like another.

Not everyone love the Central Library of course. Some visitors consider it to be a carbuncle, not a classic.

But even if you want it knocked down, bear this in mind.

Demolition wouldn't only remove a distinctive piece of architecture, there's also a growing awareness of the environmental costs of such destruction.

If it was replaced, new materials would have to be mined and transported, usually over long distances, and further processing and manufacturing is needed.

All these transactions entail heavy energy use and emit different forms of pollution, including several gases which contribute to global warming and damage human health.

A good housekeeping approach should be adopted, reusing and repairing all products and constructions whenever possible to avoid further waste of energy and materials.

When Bowater House, a high-rise block in West Bromwich, was imaginatively refurbished, many of the original materials were reused within the building and elsewhere.

The sound bricks were reused and damaged ones were crushed and used to make ballast for the surrounding paths and drives.

So should the Central Library be renovated and the archives moved to the refurbished former registry office already owned by the council, or should the site be sold for a high price and the library demolished?

I'm all for preservation - but what about you?



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