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

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 »

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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 »

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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 »

We’ve already signed off for the holidays but we know that some of you are still in the office today — after all, there’s no work to do and the boss will let you go home at 12 in any case so it’s basically a free day off and only a mug would take it as holiday. Well anyway, as you’re the sort of person who is in the office on Christmas Eve we figured you’re also the sort of person who has left shopping a bit late — after all, you’re getting out of work at lunchtime so you can just grab stuff on the way home; what’s all the fuss about, right? If you are still shopping, and if you’re at the office with nothing to do, why not print off a few copies of our FREE 2015 calendar? Elliott Brown tirelessly snaps photos of all things …

Have a Brutal 2015 Read more »

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