Birmingham’s Five Ugliest Monstrosities

Roll up! Roll up! It’s a carnival of concrete! The last few years has seen the long overdue levelling of some Birmingham’s most wretched structures such as the Bullring, New St Station and Central Library but there are still a few more hideous edifices dotted around the city that have long outstayed their welcome in one of the UK’s most vibrant cities. Here’s my list of some of the most interminable stains on Brum’s otherwise dynamic face.


  1. New St Station signal box


Amazingly this miserable concrete shambles has a few apologists and heaven knows I’m not one of them. Maybe it’s because a couple of generations have grown up with it and couldn’t imagine the city without it or you just have a thing for ghastly mediocrity, I don’t know. Completed in 1964, this is now a grade-II listed building so unfortunately I suspect it isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

  1. Ashley Building at Birmingham University


I remember sometime last year wondering around the beautiful grounds of Birmingham University, admiring the architecture, and then spending far longer than I should have at the wonderful Barber Institute for Fine Arts. As I walked out feeling happy and culturally enriched my mood was soured by stumbling across this breathtakingly lamentable Stalinist mess. That some of the finest minds in the country have to pass by this grotesque sight every day is enduringly regrettable.

  1. Copthorne Hotel


Time to move our terrible timeline forward to the 1980’s now. Much like the mullet, I imagine this place probably looked quite cool and modern when it was first conceived but boy have times moved on. With the new Library of Birmingham to its left and the Paradise developments to its right, the clowns and the jokers are all residing in this awkward glass anachronism.

  1. Snow Hill Station


This place has a serious case to be number one based solely on what it used to look like. To cut a long story short they took a grand early 20th century train station complete with an arched glass roof and lavish waiting rooms and turned it into a car park. The poignant brick entrance on Livery Street in the foreground of the above photo is all that remains of the old station as far as I’m aware. There’s plenty of archived photos of old Snow Hill online if you want to turn your wistfully enraged dial up to 11.

  1. Centre City Tower


Eyesore – noun – ‘an unpleasant or ugly sight in a public place’

Of all the tiresome entries in this listless list, this is the one that makes me want to cover my eyes every time I look up and see it. Centre City Tower has been a forlorn fixture on Birmingham’s skyline since 1975 and surprisingly large companies like Virgin Trains and Ofwat have offices inside. I just hope newcomers to Brum who leave New St Station at the Station Street exit have the good fortune to not look up so their entire visit to the city isn’t ruined.


5 thoughts on “Birmingham’s Five Ugliest Monstrosities

Add yours

  1. I can agree on the Hotel. It didnt look too bad around 10 years ago, back when we had the old library. (The upside down pyramid) But these days, next to all the new buildings they have put up, and the older buildings that have ages much better, (The Town Hall, Council House and Museum for example) it does stand out as an eye-sore.


  2. Like them or loathe them, the brutalist concrete creations of the 60s and 70s at least had character (Stalinist or otherwise). The replacements currently being thrown up are bland slabs where blocks of pastel colours make an apology for real design. Getting rid of Madin’s Central Library was a huge misstep, as it could’ve formed a centre piece for the mediocre crap that’s sprung up in its place. Sadly no-one has learned any lessons: I want to puke every time I see the monstrosity that is Selfridge’s, and I’m certainly not looking forward to the reject from Logan’s Run that’s set to be the new HS2 terminal – scheduled to ‘integrate with’ (smother) the grand Curzon Street building and the lovely Moor Street station.


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