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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.