Ringway Centre, Birmingham
Ringway Centre, Birmingham – James Roberts, Sydney Greenwood (1958-60)
Risk: Total demolition
Birmingham’s ribbon-like Ringway Centre was designed by James Roberts and Sydney Greenwood as part of the late 50’s Inner Ring Road scheme. The premier example of post-war ‘carchitecture’ in a city that truly embraced the automobile, it was described by Pevsner as “the best piece of mid-20th century urban design [in Birmingham]”.
Known for its dramatic 230m long elevation – thought to be the longest single retail frontage in the country – that curves along Smallbrook Queensway and sweeps over Hurst Street on great V-shaped pilotti, it contains four storeys of office accommodation above a sheltered shopping parade at street level. The primary façade of glazed bands and precast concrete spandrels is its defining feature: decorative relief panels with a touch of Ben Nicholson, illuminated by bullhorn uplighters that nod to Le Corbusier in Chandigarh. The enormous scale means the concrete panels establish their own rhythms of light and shade, permitting any amount of brash signage without disrupting the overall grandeur. Indeed, it even acted as a stylish backdrop for a Clint Eastwood photoshoot when he visited the city in 1967.
In 2015 a proposal was submitted to part-demolish and refurbish the Ringway Centre, with the addition of a 26-storey tower block. C20 strongly objected and applied to list the building, yet planning permission was granted in 2017 following Historic England’s recommendation that the structure did not meet the criteria for listing. Yet the latest plans would see the entire building demolished to make way for three new towers between 44 and 56 storeys, accommodating as many as 1,800 residential units.
While the building is currently covered by a COI (issued in March 2022 and valid until 2027), C20 has been developing alternative proposals with local campaigners that demonstrate how the building could be effectively expanded and retrofitted, while retaining its striking presence on the streetscape.
How to help: Object to the planning application for the demolition of the Ringway Centre (Ref: 2022/08496/PA) and back our alternative scheme by writing to Birmingham Council at firstname.lastname@example.org
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