Brum

Nothing has divided opinion more in Birmingham than the fate of the Central library.  It was built in a Brutalist style near the imposing Town Hall and has received scathing criticism from Prince Charles, Britain’s self-appointed architecture guru.  You can take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, it not only continues to house the library, but also the inappropriately named “Paradise Circus” featuring such ubiquitous delights as McDonald’s and a Wetherspoon’s pub.  Now it is worth imagining how it was originally envisioned (picture below from here).  Remove the glass Paradise forum façade and the years of weathering and what remains is a proud, gleaming white inverted pyramid, with natural light flooding the reading rooms.  The internal courtyard, devoid of cheap eateries becomes a light open public space and the back, without the twin black glass buildings housing a pub and cheap Mongolian wok restaurant becomes a bold statement of literary progress in the industrial heartland of Britain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite a campaign to save the old library, led by the Twentieth Century Society, Birmingham City Council have decided to have it demolished and the building of a new library is underway just steps away.  The pictures below give an idea of what it will look like.  While I’m sure it will be a fantastic addition to Birmingham’s cultural centre, it seems we are undervaluing modernist architecture and depriving future generations of our architectural heritage.  For those of you generally  interested in Birmingham’s architecture, I recommend Birmingham: Shaping the City by Ben Flatman (disclaimer: the author is a friend of mine).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to Jen’s enforced architecture lesson, we also managed to take a very quick look around some of the exhibits at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Some of the recently discovered Staffordshire Hoard is on display here, as are paintings from Birmingham’s most famous artist and member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Edward Burne-Jones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following this intellectual activity, we enjoyed a stroll around Birmingham’s revitalised canals (of which everyone is keen to mention there are more of in Birmingham than Venice), followed by a bottle of champagne in celebration of “Fizzy Friday.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For an authentic Birmingham experience, I took Jen for a curry to the Lahore Village in the Balti Triangle, an area renowned for it’s Indian cuisine.   The evening was topped off by cocktails at the Victoria, where delicious locally distilled Chase vodka was enjoyed and shapes were thrown (although not by us).

We visited Birmingham on one other occasion before heading to Italy, for a full day of rugby and cricket.  Jen has watched (what feels like hundreds of) Adrian’s rugby matches in Berkeley and Eagle Rock, but had never been exposed to the luxury of field-side shandies and post-match hog roasts on a glorious British spring day.  The rugby match was followed by a visit to my home-away-from-home in England, the Harborne cricket club, where Jen was able to watch a true gentleman’s game – without understanding any of it.

Here are some more pictures (of particular note is the Antony Gormley statue near the Town Hall).

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