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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Birmingham's provocative curves
Selfridge's in Birmingham

Five choices of Britain's best new architecture

To mark Architecture Week, each day this week The Magazine will look at one of five notable new buildings to have opened in Britain in the past 12 months and ask what the excitement is about.

Paco Rabanne's chainmail dresses tended to look best on long, lean, leggy models with boyish figures. Funny, then, that the Selfridge's department store in Birmingham should be so, well, curvy.

Selfridges and the Rotunda

The French designer's dresses were part of the inspiration for the department store's Birmingham branch. The blue exterior of the trendy store boasts 15,000 metallic disks that catch the sun; Selfridges says they "shine out our commitment to all that is new and innovative."

This week, the structure was honoured by the Royal Institute of British Architects, who said it was "clearly one of the most provocative of all the year's submissions because of its uncompromising and unprecedented outward appearance".

The store was designed by Future Systems, who say they were trying to build a landmark - and, according the firm's website, they succeeded.

"The fluidity of the form of the building is matched inside with an organically shaped atrium stretching across the floor plan. Like an urban canyon, the atrium creates shafts of natural light penetrating deep inside the space."

And you thought it was just somewhere to stock up on the latest fashions. No, indeed.

Inside Selfridges
Just somewhere to stock up on the latest fashions?
But the building - and the Bullring complex attached to it, built for a cost of 500 million - have been praised by experts for helping to keep Birmingham's city centre a vibrant area, by retaining shops and services.

Architecture critics have said the design proves that stylish design can thrive outside London.

The shopping centre itself says the building is an "iconic symbol" that represents Birmingham - a sexy new structure fit for a city with ambitions.

Add your comments to this story using the form below:

I feel embarrassed to say that I am originally from Birmingham! Firstly they threatened to remove the Rotunda which has been a symbol of Birmingham for years and then they build this monstrosity! A while back I was visiting my grandparents. I got off the train at New Street and went out the back of the station to get a bus. Instead of there being an open space on the roundabout, my view was blocked by a large building! People complain about losing green areas and there seems to be no stopping the developers.
Tracey, UK

As a Brummy I just want to point out Birmingham is far removed from the drab grey industrial city everyone seems to imagine. The 60s modernism is still around but is slowly been removed, leaving a fantastic city with great shops, pubs, clubs and a soul far outweighing London. The Bullring and Selfridges is just the latest addition to this rapidly developing city.
Joe, UK

What I like about the new Selfridges is the way it is just as weird & knobbly on the inside as it is on the outside. I recently got to see it from above (from the top floor of the nearby rotunda), and I have to admit I then felt a bit diddled - the roof is just standard flat white concrete!
Simon Gray, Birmingham, UK

I think it fits Birmingham perfectly, ugly and crass.
Peter Kerridge, England

I think the Selfridges building in Birmingham is sickening. It looks bad and tacky now - I dread to think what it'll look like in 5 years time when a few of those silver plates have fallen off. Thankfully it is contained within Birmingham city centre along with the horrendously confusing Bullring centre, the grimy rotunda and the rest of the commercially sponsored, tasteless architecture for a tasteless city with tasteless city planners and tasteless residents. Thank god I moved out to live in Manchester..
Jake , UK

Surely this is a spoof article / picture. Right? It is truly awful in every possible respect. I'll be visiting B'ham this summer and look forward to confirming that it really doesn't exist.
Peter Blanchflower, UAE

Its not just this building that has helped changed Birmingham, bringing down the elevated and ugly inner ring road has revealed the cities original topography and made it possible to walk from one end of the city centre to another. This demolition alone as made the city a much more natural place to move around and more exciting to look at. Iconic buildings like Selfridges also draw attention away from other, dowdier buildings around them - allowing lower cost development to proceed without blighting the cityscape. Visionary building for a visionary city.
Nick, UK

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