Birmingham’s architectural influence on JRR Tolkien

Not many people know that JRR Tolkien was raised in the Birmingham suburb of Kings Heath and that his time in Birmingham clearly influenced his famous fantasy novels.  Fans can explore locations across Birmingham city that shaped the ideology and setting of his famed stories.  With this in mind, we hope you enjoy our top Tolkien sights in Birmingham…. 

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clocktower
Known affectionately as Old Joe, the world’s tallest freestanding clock-tower is situated right in the heart of the Edgbaston campus of the University of Birmingham. Tolkien was influenced by this 100-metre high clock-tower in his design of the stone tower Orthanc, the black tower of Isengrad from The Lord of the Rings.

Perrot’s Folly and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower
The Edgbaston landmarks of Perrot’s Folly and the Waterworks Tower inspired Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith, the Two Towers of Gondor, after which the second volume of The Lord of the Rings is named.

Moseley Bog
Moseley Bog nature reserve was Tolkien’s childhood playground and he stated that the site inspired the Old Forest, where Frodo Baggins and company meet Tom Bombaldil in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Sarehole Mill
The 200-year-old Sarehole Mill, referred to as ‘the great mill’ in The Hobbit, stands on the River Cole, near King’s Norton.  Tolkien said that the village of Sarehole was the model for the Shire, home of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.


Birmingham Library and the extraordinary façade of metalwork. Do you like it?

The Birmingham library opening comes a decade after of the opening of the Bullring, one of the sites that helped lead Birmingham’s retail-led regeneration.  It cost a whopping £188m and last week was opened, standing in Birmingham city’s Centenary Square, forming an dubious new impression on the city’s skyline.

The new building covers 31,000 square metres over 10 levels. More than 400,000 books will be available to the public – which is more than double the previous library’s capacity.  The building’s extraordinary façade of metalwork was designed to reference the city’s “industrial and artisanal” past, described as a “flagship project” of Birmingham City Council’s 20-year Big City Plan, and it has certainly received mixed reviews from Birmingham residents and architects alike.

The library was designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo after an international competitive process that attracted more than 100 tenders. Architect Francine Houben said grandly that she had designed a “People’s Palace” for the city.  Although we feel that describing it as a ‘palace’ is open to debate.

The interior is made up of a series of interlocking circular halls. with daylight streaming in through the rooftop. There are two garden terraces overlooking the city, and an outdoor amphitheatre extending into the square in front.  As architects in Birmingham, the team at Abacus Architects be interested to know whether you feel the new library and its architecture is a positive feature for Birmingham, or an unattractive blot on the skyline?

Cutting edge architecture to house Birmingham’s books

The new Library in Birmingham,  Europe’s largest public library – opened in the first week September 2013. Complimenting the modern architecture is a room from the 19th Century that has been recreated inside to house one of the UK’s most important Shakespeare collections.

Can cutting edge architecture inspire bookworms and playwrights alike?  Either way, it’s a stunning addtion to Birmingham archtiecture.  See the BBC video for an sneak preview.  As Architects in Birmingham, We’d like to hear your thoughts on the design, how nice you find it on the eye, and whether you’ll be visiting.  

Birmingham Canals – architecture to be admired.

The whole Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) system adds up to 100 miles of canals, showcasing some stunning scenery and architecture.

It is one of the most intricate canal networks in the world. The hub of the BCN is the bustling city centre junction at Gas Street Basin. Here, colourful boats and historic canal architecture sit side-by-side with vibrant restaurants, cafes and bars. The basin is in the heart of Birmingham’s cosmopolitan nightlife and shopping districts. The mainlines and city centre canals are busy with boaters, walkers and cyclists.

However, elsewhere on the BCN, you can really get away from it all on winding suburban canals and some surprisingly rural branches. In the northern waters of the BCN, there are some rarely-explored waterways and architecture that are truly off the beaten track.

The canals were the life-blood of Victorian Birmingham and the Black Country. At their height, they were so busy that gas lighting was installed beside the locks to permit round-the-clock operation. Boats were built without cabins for maximum carrying capacity, and a near-tidal effect was produced as swarms of narrowboats converged on the Black Country collieries at the same time every day.

If you are interested in Birmingham architecture and would like to know more about Abacus Architects can do you, call us on 0121 608 3700 or have a look at our website and examples of our projects.