Thursday, December 03, 2009

A permanent building site?

There are fears the Central Library, the revamped New Street and Priory Square may all undergo demolition at the same time.

In the last few weeks Birmingham was granted the go-ahead for the demolition of Paradise Forum (which includes John Madin's Central Library, Fletcher's Walk and the Conservatoire) as well as the official nod to the £600 million Gateway scheme to redevelop New Street station.

This blog is not discussing the merits of either building here, nor are we passing judgement on whether the money is being spent wisely or not. Simply we haven't got the information nor the expertise.

Many citizens, however, have come up with the following observation.

Between 2000 and 2003 Birmingham city centre was already host, right at its very core, to two of the biggest building sites on earth: the Bullring (see pic) as well as the Mailbox.

Rebuilding the Bullring was certainly necessary and the city benefitted from it. But if you worked (or lived) around town at the time you may remember the extensive redrawing of bus routes and the 3-year-long traffic disruption. Remember that awful ramp as you were walking into town from Digbeth?

Now, imagine the same again, or possibly worse, if both the end of Paradise Forum and the new-look New Street station take place at the same time (which they're expected to, for a period stretching at least up to 2015), along with the demolition of the so-called Oasis market (the block including both Priory Square and the old Academy). Birmingham will again be perceived as an enormous perma-building site, a reputation the city doesn't deserve.

Think of where all those sites are located. Could it be that visitors may notice two or three enormous craters right at the heart of the city? How bad will traffic be disrupted? How are both residents and businesses going to be affected?

Maybe I'm just talking bollocks. But I was just wondering if this "revolving door" style of revamping as done on such a grand scale is worth the above mentioned epic levels of hassle and disruption.


Simon said...

We'll like yourself I'm no expert but I would say that I've only recently started visiting Birmingham due in the first place to the Bullring development - I liked what I saw and have gone so far as even to spend a few nights in the city. I think further development isn't a bad idea. But all in one big bang? I don't know - if it isn't done carefully it might drive me away.

Acidfairyy said...

I can't wait. May as well get rid of all those hideous 60s buildings in one fell swoop!

Helen Highwater said...

There's always a huge bunch of cranes somewhere round here... the disruption caused by the new QE has been rather horrific as well, and for our troubles we get a hospital that looks like a row of portaloos.

It wasn't long ago that they knocked down Edgbaston Shopping Centre at Five Ways. There was a big hoopla about it, and since then it's sat empty with hoardings showing jolly shoppers and diners, but there's nothing but a patch of blasted earth behind them. Not even a solitary digger working on the foundations.

Presumably Paradise Circus won't sit empty for that long though seeing as it's a central location, but I do wonder sometimes what they're up to. The city looks like a patchwork of giant building schemes which never quite link together properly. It's always rather a shock coming out of the walkway under the library and being vomited out into the Victorian era!

And for the record, I rather like Brutalist architecture, but the Central Library just wasn't fit for purpose anymore. Those escalators were nightmarish! (which isn't enough to hang a man, but the 60s aren't cool at the moment).

Anonymous said...

The city is never going to develop its own identity if we carry on bulldozing history like this. Don't forget that we may sneer at 60s architecture now but forty years ago people held Victorian buildings in similar contempt. I think the commenter Helen nailed it: 'The city looks like a patchwork of giant building schemes which never quite link together properly'.

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side; you could be in Bradford instead of Brum. If you've been following my blog you'll know that up here we've got the building sites, but sadly no prospect of any buildings appearing upon them in the foreseeable future. Come to think of it we're short of builders too.

From what I've seen of recent developments in Birmingham city centre I've been quite impressed, and it will be good to see the last of the misguided 60s brutalist architecture coming down (concrete may have been the last word in modernity then but looks appalling now). But doing it in one go is a hell of an ask.