Iconic buildings of Brum - Part 1

Jonathan Wilkins

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February 20, 2018
England’s second largest city, Birmingham, has undergone some serious cosmetic surgery over the past 20 years and is finally shifting the image of an ugly concrete jungle to that of a modern metropolis for the 21st century. Birmingham now boasts some of the finest architectural structures in Europe, but what exactly makes Brum the culture loving city it is? Read on to find out more…

1. Library of Birmingham

The newest addition to Birmingham’s skyline, the all new Library of Birmingham resides in Centenary Square and regardless of your true opinion (it’s like Marmite, both loved and loathed) you have to admit that it’s a fine piece of architecture. It cost a staggering £189 million and is proud to boast the title of biggest public library in Europe, housing over 800,000 books and 200 computers. It’s arguably easier on the eye when up close and personal, yet the library is something of weird beauty. The metalwork is something to behold, linking back to the city’s industrial heritage.

Library of Birmingham
New Library of Birmingham

There are ten floors of reading frenzy for the book worms, and enough capacity to hold gigs and talks. There’s an in-house cafe, outdoor terraces on the 3rd and 7th floors and the 9th floor has an indoor Skyline Viewpoint, something which offers some of the best panoramic views to be found of Brum’s busy city centre.

If you’re in Birmingham, then it’s definitely worth a look and if you’re not already a member go and sign up. You won’t regret it.

2. Bullring

The Bullring celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013. Where have the past 15 years gone?

Bullring shopping centre Birmingham
Selfridges building in Birmingham

This top class indoor shopping centre boasts the usual high street names and little independent stores, but it’s the exterior architecture that makes the Bullring so unique – the outside of Selfridges is covered with no less than 15,000 silver discs, making the building beautiful in both the glaring sun and in the cold dark of night, when lights illuminate its wonderful façade.

3. Victoria Square

Victoria Square plays a pivotal role in linking the shopping areas of New Street and the Bullring to the restaurants and bars of Brindley Place, doing so via a pedestrianised sense of elegance. Some say it’s one of the finest squares in Britain. It proudly boasts the Council House, Birmingham Museum and Gallery (BMAG) and the Birmingham Town Hall, showcasing statues of Queen Victoria, the famous water feature, The River (better known to Brummies as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi) but has now, rather disappointingly to the locals, been replaced with a flowing garden feature. There’s only one thing missing in our opinion - to match those wonderful Plazas in Europe, perhaps Brum’s authorities should allow continental style al fresco wining and dining outdoors in the warmer months so that people can truly appreciate the beauty of this picturesque part of town.

Victoria Square in Birmingham
Victoria Square in Birmingham

Each year Victoria Square becomes home to the biggest German Christmas Market outside of Germany – so, if you’re in Birmingham at Christmas time, be sure to get yourself some German fare, a glass of mulled wine and join in the festive cheer.

4. Rotunda

Here’s an iconic building from my youth. Situated adjacent to New Street station, this Grade II listed building was first constructed in the 60’s and given a makeover in 2008 to bring it up to date and stop it from becoming the Leaning Tower of Birmingham.

Birmingham skyline with Rotunda
Rotunda in Birmingham

Once used as an office block, it now houses an array of serviced apartments, with rooms and penthouse suites on the top floors available to rent out by the night. The panoramic views that the Rotunda boasts are fantastic, especially in the heart of the city.

There used to be a pub on the ground floor of the Rotunda, The Mulberry Bush, but this was targeted by the IRA in the infamous Birmingham Pub Bombings. The other pub that was targeted, 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, is home to a residential/hotel building. The lower floors of the building are accommodated by a branch of Radisson Blu hotel and restaurant, with the upper floors containing serviced apartments.

10 Holloway Circus, Birmingham
Holloway Circus in Birmingham

Birmingham is an incredibly dynamic city and it’s changing all the time. There are numerous cranes on the skyline wherever you look, acting as a constant reminder that the city is growing and developing right before us.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing more iconic buildings springing up very soon. In fact, I hear the building at 10 Holloway Circus may no longer hold the title of Birmingham’s tallest building come the end of 2018.

Bonus icon!

Located in Birmingham’s iconic Jewellery Quarter, you’ll find probably the UK’s oldest Grade II listed pubic urinal. Travel to the area by train and as you exit The Jewellery Quarter train station, look left and you won’t fail to miss it. Definitely an iconic structure in my humble opinion. Should be up there with the telephone and post boxes!

Birmingham's oldest public toilet
Old public toilets in Birmingham
Jonathan Wilkins

Founder and Managing Director of Warm Welcome Homestays - Birmingham born and bred, English Language Teacher and long track-record of working with students, homestay hosts and language schools in the UK and overseas, including living and working in Asia for a number of years.

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