BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 July, 2005, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
The changing face of Birmingham

Louise Scrivens
BBC News website, Birmingham

The demolition of Pebble Mill along with a number of other significant buildings in Birmingham mark a new era for the city.

Pebble Mill
Work has started to demolish Pebble Mill

But for the architect who designed them their destruction signals a "disastrous move" for the future of Birmingham.

John Madin designed numerous buildings for Birmingham including the Central Library and the Chamber of Commerce building which gained him an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Birmingham City planners are currently mulling over proposals to replace the library and demolish the Chamber of Commerce.

'Demolished arbitrarily'

While many will be glad to see these buildings go Mr Madin said it showed a lack of "competent planning" on the part of Birmingham council chiefs.

He added: "There seems to be no comprehensive plan as to how the city should evolve over the years," he said.

"Buildings are being demolished arbitrarily just to fulfil the demand of the commercial organisation."

Work has started on the demolition of Pebble Mill which will make way for a 100m science and technology park.

It is astonishing that rather than recognise the quality of this building (Central Library) Birmingham is instead planning to erase it.
Twentieth Century Society

Mr Madin studied radio and television studios in the UK and abroad examining programme production for nine months before designing Pebble Mill.

In its day it was said to be the first in the world to integrate sound and television under one roof.

But after 40 years serving as the base for the Midlands, BBC Birmingham moved to new premises at the Mailbox in the city centre.

Central library
The council want to build a new library in Digbeth

Another of John Madin's buildings under threat is Birmingham's Central Library after Birmingham City Council proposed to relocate it to a new building in Digbeth.

Officially opened in 1975 the original plan for the library was as a complete cultural centre with exhibition areas, a lecture hall, children's and music departments, a drama centre and athletic institute covering the whole of Paradise Circus.

Halfway through the project the council sold part of the land off for a hotel and commercial developments and instead of a formal entrance to the library, as first planned, there now stands fast food outlets and bars.

One man's architectural triumph is another man's lump of concrete
Freddie Gick, Birmingham Civic Society

But despite the half-finished design The Twentieth Century Society, set up to safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain, said the library was an "excellent building" and was one of the "twentieth century's architectural masterpieces.

"It is astonishing that rather than recognise the quality of this building Birmingham is instead planning to erase it." a society spokeswoman added.

But Freddie Gick, from the Birmingham Civic Society which aims to ensure high standards in planning, building and preservation, said opinions and tastes differed.

"One man's architectural triumph is another man's lump of concrete.

"The John Maden Library is well regarded by some and seen by others as an unattractive block that stands in the way of a massive development opportunity for the Paradise Circus site."

Artist's impression of the new Chamber of Commerce building
The new Chamber of Commerce building will open in 2007

A spokeswoman from Birmingham City Council said there were a number of options up for consideration which were due to be discussed at the next cabinet meeting and no comment was being made until then.

Mr Madin's prized building, which has provided a base for Birmingham's Chamber of Commerce for the last 45 years, is to be demolished and replaced with a bigger building on the same site.

Describing the current building as "tired" and "outdated" a spokesman for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce said the new 80m headquarters will be three buildings with an 850-space car park and is due to be completed in 2007.

Mr Madin, now aged 82 and currently working on a new village development in Wales, has been described as Birmingham's most important post-war architect shaping the modern face of the city.

Born in Moseley he was also responsible for designing Telford, Shropshire, the offices for the Birmingham Post & Mail and redeveloping the Calthorpe Estate in Edgbaston.

Despite abandoning his "Brummie" roots and moving out of the city in the 70s to pursue other projects around the world Mr Madin is still passionate about the future of the city.

"Birmingham is still my city and I feel responsible for it."

Birmingham 'will go forward'
04 Jun 03 |  West Midlands
Cash boosts city's culture status
26 Jul 04 |  West Midlands
Birmingham's provocative curves
23 Jun 04 |  Magazine
What is the worst eyesore in the UK?
20 Nov 03 |  Have Your Say
From cheap side to Eastside
01 Feb 02 |  England
Should grotesque buildings be demolished?
20 Aug 04 |  Have Your Say

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific