Category: Architecture

Signs and symbols used as a code to mark listed buildings in Birmingham before a suspicious fire or a demolition order have been revealed, and now ‘experts’ have explained how to protect yours. Look out for these drawing on walls, doors and even bins outside your property. Some indicate that it’s not worth the effort of battling local opinion, others that they may be a prime target.

“I curse any nights sleep in these flats to be ruined by the ghosts of a thousand lost nights of noise and lights and friends.”

These are dire times for Brutalism in Birmingham but the battle for the city’s soul isn’t over yet. Paradise Circus has already suggested six tactics we might employ in the effort to preserve our concrete heritage and now I’d like to suggest a few more: How to keep Birmingham’s Brutalist Architecture. No 7: Add Slides How to keep Birmingham’s Brutalist Architecture. No 8: Move it to Cannon Hill Park

Hot on the heels of the news that another area of Birmingham will have its architectural significance airbrushed from history in order for it to be regenerated into another identikit mixed use development with a fucking Costa at the bottom, Paradise Circus presents a simple three step process to the Birmingham regeneration process. STEP 1: Manufacture A Design Issue Sure, the lollipop is an enduring design and represents cosy familiarity with the human/confectionery relationship — but its form creates a barrier to the free movement of flavour and satisfaction.

Tagged with:

Library Story: a history of Birmingham Central Library by Alan Clawley “I read book once,” says Mr Heslop — played by Brian Glover — in Porridge, “green it was.” And I’m fairly sure if the green book Mr Heslop had read was on architecture or morality then it was one more book than any of the people involved in the decision to demolish John Madin’s Birmingham Central Library have ever skimmed. I’ve just read a book, called Library Story, by long time campaigner for the library Alan Clawley — which is nothing more than heartbreaking as it reveals how influence and patronage rips through the city, how the cosy collusion of the media — it’s a small town, after all — allows scrutiny to be sidelined. And it shows just how decisions are taken, and defended against logic. What the book isn’t is a book about the building, …

More revealing than the Kerslake Report Read More »

Tagged with:

The demolition of Madin’s Library is victory for cliché and gormless ‘opinion’. A triumph of pluralistic ignorance, with the blood on the hands of an unimaginative fourth estate who sleepwalked with what passes for a second round these parts into an act of pointless vandalism. Karl Marx developed a theory of what’s now called creative destruction: he postulated that capitalism needs continual cycles of devaluation or destruction in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth. As Stereolab explain, this is often by recession or war — but in our local context neglect and bogus ‘civic renewal’ serve the purpose. Capitalism has won over beauty, and the cheers of the braying classes as the thin exterior is punctured celebrate the powerlessness of all under money’s rule. It is a war, a war for history and the public realm. The casualty of this war is …

Brutal, beautiful, battered: we’re losing the war for our soul Read More »

Tagged with:

A dark force is at work in industrial Birmingham. The evidence is there before us in our streets, in our museums, in the halls of power, our entertainment venues, our dark mills. Yes the devil himself pervades the fabric of Birmingham culture. Nowhere is this presence felt more than in the imposing effigy in the main atrium to the Museum & Art Gallery in Chamberlain Square – the Civic focus of art and tradition in Birmingham. It is the first ambassador to welcome the casual visitor or tourist to the culture of Birmingham.

Tagged with: ,

We build our identity in different ways on different days, according to the situation and the politics of the time. So it is that we might be white, brown or black but at times of crisis or joy we can become nations under one flag. Kevin McCloud is many things. To some he is a southern imperialist, like a one man John Lewis, coming to Birmingham to tell us what we’re supposed to want. At other times he is other things. Thinking woman’s crumpet. Architectural commentator. A member of the London metropolitan media elite. The guy whose name fits wonderfully into the theme tune to Blankety Blank. Coat wearer of the year 1999-2005 (finally losing out to José Mourinho). Today we say he is a Brummie. And a fucking good one. For is it not the true mark of a Brummie TO BE NOT TOO FUCKING EASILY …

Brummie of the year 2015: Kevin McCloud Read More »

Tagged with: ,

The latest Birmingham PLC press release — painstakingly recreated as news by the local paper — makes many proud boasts about the planned redevelopment of the Christopher Wray lighting factory. It includes the usual lauding of new shiny buildings and a shameless brag about how much the land has gone up in value since the owner bought up the previously undesirable site for cheap and banked it until HS2 was a dead cert. But the thing that stood out for us was the claim that they’re going to make Brum’s first “ruin pub” — they’ve been ruining pubs all around town for years now, so how can this be a first? There are actual ruins like the Fox & Grapes, just a few hundred yards from Christopher Wray, which is surely only one more stray match away from joining Island House in becoming a car park for …

The Ruin Under Water — our perfect Birmingham Pub Read More »

Tagged with: ,

This essay features as part of our 2015 Brutal calendar — which is free to download today, but will be half price if you wait until the New Year. If you’ve ever seen a photo of Central Library architect John Madin you might notice that he always seems to be wearing a suit. I’m guessing that for a man in his profession in the ’50s and ’60s that isn’t too unusual. But somehow it seems too conventional for a man that produced such stark and, even now, startling buildings. Ian Francis from 7 Inch Cinema once described to me in detail his concept for a TV show set in the architecture scene in Birmingham in the middle of the last century. It would have Madin in it, of course, but also Harry Weedon of Handsworth (the designer of many won- derful Art Deco Odeons and a number of …

Big buildings, big ideas, big men. In suits. Read More »