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Listing refusal raises fears over future of another Madin building

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Historic England has granted an application for a certificate of immunity  (COI) from listing on John Madin’s 1958 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce building, raising questions about its survival.

Conservation group the Twentieth Century Society criticised the heritage watchdog’s move, which follows the recent loss of other Madin buildings in the city including the Birmingham Central Library, the Post and Mail building and 103 Colmore Row.

But a report by Historic England listing officers said that alterations to the building had undermined its architectural value.

Deborah Williams, listing team leader at Historic England, said: ‘Although the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce was clearly a showpiece of Madin’s early flair for imposing commercial buildings which married design quality with high quality materials and attention to detail, over time it has been much altered which has diluted the coherence of its design.

‘Although some elements of real quality survive, the building as a whole lacks the necessary special interest for listing so we recommended a certificate of immunity from listing should be issued.’

A report into the building following the COI application said that Madin had believed in a system of ‘complete design’, where many internal features were designed by the architect, but that ‘this has now been irreversibly lost due to alterations and losses’.

It said that two examples where Madin’s designs have survived better – a private house at Juniper Hill in Warwickshire and office block St James’s House in Edgbaston – have both been listed previously at Grade II.

However, Tess Pinto, conservation adviser at the Twentieth Century Society, said the decision ‘sounded the death knell for yet another of Madin’s undervalued masterpieces.’

She said: ‘Much of the original fabric does remain intact, and the alterations are of minimal consequence in the wider importance of the building as an architectural landmark within the historic Calthorpe Estate.’

Pinto also criticised HE’s decision not to separately list the John Piper mosaic mural in the building’s entrance hall as ‘incongruous with their commitment to the protection of post-war public art’.

In 2011, the city council approved the renewal of a 2004 application from the chamber to demolish the building and replace it with a new office block with restaurants and bars.

1960   John Piper   John Piper Mural  Birmingham Chamber of Commerce   1959 60  23

1960 John Piper John Piper Mural Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

 

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