Loved and Loathed: Architecture and Office Buildings in Birmingham, UK

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 12 September 2017 10:04

Birmingham is one of the prime, but often overlooked, centers of the Midlands. Often overlooked as well is the city’s architecture, which actually tells quite an interesting story. This isn’t the cozy, touristy vision most consider the ideal vision of British buildings. Birmingham is host to the real story of British architecture.

This is a story that spans across the centuries and the great building booms of modern England right up to the modern day, which leaves it with some pretty interesting structures to note. The cityscape as a consequence is very visually different and its most famous buildings are united only by the fact that they are either loved or hated by people across the city and Britain as a whole.


The Rotunda


Image Source: Brumitecture

The Rotunda is a Grade II listed building and an icon of the 1960s. Back when Harold Wilson’s Labour government was feverishly eliminating Victorian slums across the country, it was also trying to project a modern image of the country’s future with buildings similar to the Rotunda, such as London’s Post Office Tower. The cylindrical shape and minimalistic glass were very eye-catching at the time and continue to be so today.


Library of Birmingham


Image Source: Library of Birmingham

Birmingham’s library is an award-wining contemporary addition to the city’s civic architecture. Like many of Birmingham’s buildings, it’s both admired and reviled. Catching the trend for patterned and latticed screens that have caught on in recent years, the façade features a metal screen of interlocking rings covering three blocks that rise to a golden cylindrical viewing platform crowning the building. Inside are 10 stories of books, cafés, and gardens.


10 Holloway Circus


Image Source: RightMove

10 Holloway Circus, built in 2006, has the distinction of being Birmingham’s tallest occupied structure and is still striking a decade on after it’s completion. The building’s multi-colored glass stripes down the façade in a unique pattern that recalls raindrops. The curved front of the building glints in the sun and houses apartments, offices and a hotel.




Image Source: The Birmingham Post

The Bullring is one of the oddest looking buildings in Britain which, stereotypically for Brum, makes it much admired or much hated for its strange, blobby shape coated in literally thousands of silver discs. The building looks futuristic more than 10 years after it was completed in 2003 and continues to turn heads while housing a shopping mall inside.



back to back

Image Source: The National Trust

A bit of history: up until the 1970s much of Birmingham and much of the rest of Britain’s industrial cities looked like the Back-to-Backs, cramped worker housing built literally back to back with limited services centered on narrow courtyards. Quaint and historic today, they were disliked for their narrow quarters and lack of services enough to see widespread demolition in the 1960s, leaving this National Trust operated structure as one of the few left in Birmingham.


Birmingham Cathedral


Image Source: FW Haywood

Standing alone as a bastion of history looking much out of place in a much changed Brum, Birmingham Cathedral is a Baroque-Georgian gem completed in 1515. The cathedral’s restrained but beautifully detailed exterior hides brilliant and much loved stained glass windows inside; windows that were deemed so important that they were removed and stored in a Welsh mine during the Blitz.


Spaghetti Junction


Image Source: Fast Car

While not a building per se, the Gravelly Hill Interchange is one of Birmingham’s famous and outlandish creations with an iconic reputation for its crisscrossing highways giving it its colloquial Italian name. Opened in 1972, it was seen as a symbol of modernity and still is, you guessed it, loved or hated by all who see it for its extreme embrace of what its time considered modern.


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