The Ringway Centre in Birmingham has been dividing public opinion since it was completed in 1962.
The structure, sited just outside New Street Station on Smallbrook Queensway, is regarded by most locals as a monstrous carbuncle. But could they be wrong?
Architecture and Banality
In recent years, the architectural style known as Brutalism has become increasingly trendy among the chattering classes. A warm nostalgia for the “bodge it and scarper” school of post-war development has emerged amongst those who don’t have to look at it every day.
Where most people just see a pile of concrete and glass, others see genius. One architect even went to so far as to describe the Ringway as “a grand and elegant urban gesture [with its] sweeping horizontal lines [and] its rhythm of vertical fins.”
These days, it is difficult to open a Sunday supplement without seeing somebody or other bleating on about “perfect blends of form and function” or “impressively rectangular structures”. For some unknown reason, Brutalism is back in style.
Could Birmingham be about to call London’s bluff? According to someone claiming to represent Birmingham City Council, the answer is an emphatic “yes”.
“London based media-types are constantly telling us how good this crap looks. So we’ve decided to let them have it.” he told us.
“Rather than wasting millions trying to redevelop it for the 21st Century, we’re simply going to relocate it, block by hideous block, onto Islington High Street. That’ll learn ’em!”
Given their unbounded passion for Stalinist monstrosities, you could be forgiven for thinking that London’s media set would be grateful for this inter-city gift. Reaction, however, has been somewhat less than enthusiastic.
“This style is, of course, wonderful in its proper place,” a Fleet Street cultural columnist told us. “Plonk it in some northern dump like Birmingham or Sheffield and I’m all for it. It’s bold, it’s imaginative, it’s vibrant. But if you transpose it to a genuinely edgy urban environment like Hampstead Heath or the posh end of Islington, it soon loses its minimalist charm. I’ll be writing a cheque to my MP!”