Birmingham houses many infamous structures
England’s second city, behind London of course, has gone under the knife in the past 20 years or so, hoping to shift the image of an ugly urban jungle to that of a modern metropolis built on class and beauty. Birmingham now boasts some of the finest structures in Europe, but what exactly makes Brum the culture loving city it is? Read on to find out the best of Brum’s architecture.
1. Library of Birmingham
The newest addition to the Birmingham family, the all new Library of Birmingham resides in Centenary Square and regardless of your true opinion (it’s both loved and loathed) you have to admit that it’s a fine piece of architecture. Costing a staggering £189 million, the library boasts the title of biggest public library in Europe, housing over 800,000 books and 200 computers. It’s maybe easier on the eye when up close, yet the library is something of weird beauty. The metalwork is something to behold, linking back to the city’s industrial heritage.
There are ten floors of endless joy for the book worms, whilst the library also has capacity for gigs and talks. They have an in house café, outdoor terraces (which are called “secret gardens”) on the 3rd and 7th floors and the 9th floor has an indoor Skyline Viewpoint, something which offers some of the best views to be found are Brum’s busy city centre. More often then not the venue is booked up for private events, so be sure to check that it’s free before waiting for the lift (or if your brave/crazy enough, tackling the endless amount of stairs).
The Council has set a target of 3 million visitors in the first year of the Library’s opening, and we surely must be well on the way of meeting this target having attracted the attention of visitors worldwide. If you’re in Birmingham then it’s definitely worth a look.
You can join the library regardless of where you live, so be sure to join at your heart’s content.
2. Victoria Square
Victoria Square plays a vital role in linking the shops of New Street and the Bullring to the restaurants and bars of Brindley Place, doing so via a pedestrianised sense of class. It has to be one of the finest squares in the country, though naturally it isn’t in the same league as some Plazas and Piazzas in Europe. It happily boasts the Council House, Birmingham Museum and Gallery (BMAG) and the Birmingham Town Hall, displaying statues of Queen Victoria, the ever famous water feature The River (better known to Brummies as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi) and the “Iron Man” by Anthony Gormley. The biggest thing missing in the square is maybe bars with outdoor seating to match the wonderfully picturesque air of the Birmingham square.
Maybe it has something to do with our wonderful licensing laws in the UK (sarcasm), but currently all that’s available is a stroll around the square, sitting by the fountain and people watching as they go about their daily business (not that we do is… much).
Possibly the most famous part of the square is the annual German Christmas Market – the biggest German Christmas market outside it’s homeland and Austria – so be sure to get yourself some German cuisine, Christmas hats and festive cheer.
Staggeringly, September 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of the famous Bullring (we remember when the plans were proposed for the Bullring, so to pass ten years is crazy).
The premier indoor shopping centre boasts the usual high street names and little independent stores, but it’s the outside architecture that makes the Bullring so unique – the exterior of Selfridges is covered with no more than 15,000 silver discs, making the building beautiful in the blaring sun and in the cold dark of night, with lights illuminating it’s wonderful exterior.
The Birmingham Rotunda, a grade II listed building, was originally constructed in the 1960s, yet it was given a makeover in 2008 to bring it up to date. Once used as an office block, it now consists of ‘serviced apartments’, with rooms and penthouse suites on the top floors being available to rent out nightly. The panoramic views that the Rotunda boasts are pretty amazing, especially in the heart of the city.
There used to be a pub on the ground floor of the Rotunda , The Mulberry Bush, yet this was targeted as one of the two boozers by the IRA in the infamous Birmingham Pub Bombings. The other, The Tavern in the Town, is now an all you can eat buffet restaurant on New Street.
5. 10 Holloway Circus
The tallest building in the city, standing at 130m tall, homes a hotel/residential building. The BT Tower is taller, but this is classed as a tower rather than a building. The lower floors of the building are taken up by a branch of Radisson Blu hotel and restaurant (incredibly posh and expensive), with the upper floors homing serviced apartments.
Birmingham is an incredibly dynamic city; it’s changing all of the time. There are numerous cranes on the skyline wherever you are, so it’s always a constant reminder that we’re growing, progressing, building. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more iconic buildings very, very soon.
New Street stations is undergoing a massive regeneration period which will see the aged shopping centre turn into that of ‘Grand Central Birmingham’, a complete shopping experience with John Lewis sitting at the heart of the structure. Be sure to check it out in Autumn 2014 when it’s complete.