In his article ‘The man who built Brum: A lament for the demise of John Madin’s Brutalist Birmingham’ in The Independent, the journalist Christopher Beanland writes about the amazing buildings by John Madin that he remembers when he was working in the city as a young man and quotes C20 Director Catherine Croft in support of Madin’s architecture. Madin’s futuristic vision of the city centre in the 1970s has now been overtaken by new phases of development. In their in-house blog Inthought, also quoting Catherine, Director of Associated Architects Matthew Goer points out that the Central Library was just part of an ambitious civic centre that was never fully realised, and that it was originally intended to have been clad in marble. As he said, ‘You can imagine that the public response to the building would be a lot different had Madin been allowed to fulfil his designs.’ You need to move fast if you want to see his work before it is gone for good. The library closes in June and could be demolished this autumn, though the Friends of the Birmingham Central Library continue the fight to save it.
While John Madin is best known for his commercial offices and Birmingham’s Central Library, his housing is no less interesting. Lord Calthorpe, the owner of the 1600-acre family estate in Edgbaston a few miles west of the city centre, invited him in 1957 to draw up a Master Plan for the development of the estate and to become its Chief Architect. Over the following two decades the young Madin grasped this rare opportunity to design and built a new commercial zone on the Hagley Road as well as many large housing schemes, utilising the rambling gardens of redundant Victorian villas. He was thus able to raise the overall housing density of the estate in line with the rest of the city in such a subtle way that the change was hardly noticed.
C20 Society have organised a walk to look at these housing schemes, led by Alan Crawley who has campaigned tirelessly for the library, which will take place on Saturday 22nd June from 10-30am-4pm. Starting and finishing at Five Ways rail station, one stop from New Street, the tour will take in a selection of schemes to show various phases of Madin’s career including the interior of one of Madin’s houses in Estria Road and the Warwick Crest residential tower. Book tickets here.