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Birmingham becomes a truly model city

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The bulldozers are set to move in on Birmingham's Bull Ring, but before they do photographer Tom Merilion has produced a startling new view of the city's concrete buildings as their idealist 1960s planners would have seen them.

Merilion's exhibition 'Concrete Dreams', at the Midlands Art Centre, documents the concrete architecture of the 50s, 60s and 70s and features examples such as the Spaghetti Junction, the Bull Ring and New Street station.

But by shooting frames from a light aircraft circling above the city and ignoring the rule book of architectural photography, Merilion has achieved the unnerving affect of tricking the viewer into thinking these are photos of models - images of architects' dreams rather than the crumbling structures of today.

'The fact that the images look like models makes the buildings seem like a vision of the future - seen from above exactly like the planners and architects would have viewed them,' he said. Merilion, who makes music videos and tv commercials for a living, rejected the usual rules of architectural photography such as correcting perspectives and getting everything in the shot in focus. Instead, selective focus and unreal colours present the buildings in a rosier light. In one series of views of the Bull Ring, Merilion even erases graffiti and litter using digital techniques.

The photos aim to capture the early innocence of Birmingham's concrete built heritage, because, Merilion explains, he has fond memories of the structures in his childhood there during the 70s: 'I'm not commenting on whether these buildings should be pulled down. Rather I have romantic memories of the buildings. I was proud of the Spaghetti junction when we travelled down the motorway from the North and the Bull Ring and the Central Library used to be where we'd go to meet girls.'

An introduction to the exhibition, by Joe Holyoak, opines: 'We now find evocative the photographs of architects and councillors looking down, from a godlike height, upon the model. It is a remote, objective viewpoint, unlike the computer fly-through on the screen which is today's equivalent. Physical patterns seen from this height become significant and attractive to an orderly mind - tower blocks standing to attention in ranks, the perfect square of the library, the geometry of speed.'

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