Paradise Lost

I had braced myself for its eventual fate, but seeing footage of Birmingham Central Library being demolished still brought a tear to my eye:

Time-lapse video documenting the demolition of Birmingham Central Library

A second video brings into sharp relief the reverence we have for buildings built during the reign of Queen Victoria – such as the Council House and Town Hall – while those of a more recent vintage fall prey to the bulldozers.

Rather than destroy this iconic building, I’m sure that given a little more imagination, it could have been saved while satisfying the aims of the developers. As I wrote previously:

I’d love to see it refurbished and given a new role in the city. How wonderful to see it set amongst the water gardens seen in the original plans, which were designed to soften the edges of this imposing mass of concrete. Perhaps too, the atrium could be returned to its original design, removed of the bars and fast food restaurants that currently suffocate this space.

While artist’s impressions of the redeveloped Paradise Circus look impressive (assuming its always sunny and Brexit hasn’t decimated the local economy), the identikit buildings set to replace John Madin’s brutalist library will likely be pulled down within a matter of decades. I’m sure critics made similar comments when the original library on this site was demolished.

Our disregard for post-war architecture aside, demolition rarely sits well with me. It seems like such a wasteful, unsympathetic exercise. Fortunately, Birmingham has plenty of examples that prove another approach is possible. The Rotunda still stands, no longer offices but residential apartments, while New Street Station was redeveloped while keeping much of the original structure in place. Sometimes saner minds prevail.