The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

News from Birmingham

Of main concern at the moment is the fate of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Building (John Madin Design Partnership 1958). This fine example of a 1950’s office building, is still largely intact and with office accommodation planned in such a way that it successfully anticipated modern needs for flexible and adaptable office space. Fine materials were used throughout and many of the original furnishings remain: there have been some alterations but, John Madin assures me, these are relatively minor and do not detract from the intended concept and feel of the building. Incorporated in the entrance foyer is a large-scale mosaic mural by the artist John Piper, which was his first large scale mural, and paved the way for several other major commissions.

This fine building is threatened with demolition to make way for a major redevelopment: the Chamber of Commerce does not need more space and there is no demand for office accommodation on the edge of the residential Edgbaston Conservation Area.

Impressed by the fine and unique quality of the building the Society put it forward for statutory listing. Unfortunately listing was refused, on the grounds that the building had been altered too much. On closer inspection of the list of so called alterations it was found that many of these were, in fact, part of the original design, including the open-plan offices. The importance of the John Piper mural also did not appear to have been appreciated. Armed with this new information we have asked the DCMS to reconsider the listing application and we keep our fingers crossed.

The only other news is the extension of the Moseley Conservation area. Although Moseley was largely developed during the Edwardian period with some fine Arts and Crafts influenced houses the extended Conservation Area includes good quality “between-the wars” houses on large plots which are very vulnerable to developers’ greed and so Conservation Area status will afford some protection here.

Eva Ling