A proposal to part-demolish and refurbish Birmingham’s Ringway Centre has been lodged, following Historic England’s recommendation that the structure should not be listed
The heritage watchdog has recommended a certificate of immunity from listing is granted for the block, designed by James Roberts and Sydney Greenwood and built between 1958 and 1960.
The culture secretary has yet to make a final decision but Norr, on behalf of developer Commercial Estates Group (CEG), this week submitted plans for a revamp.
The planning application to Birmingham City Council proposes demolition of two existing buildings within the complex and their replacement by a part nine, part 26-storey building providing 309 homes.
It also seeks permission for extensions on the top of the remaining existing buildings plus recladding work, new shopfronts, office entrances and landscaping.
An existing nightclub would be retained and incorporated into the proposed development.
In its recommendation to grant a certificate of immunity from listing, Historic England noted that the building, which occupies a 231m-long plot on Queensway, was ‘cleverly designed’ to ‘make a large structure seem part of the human city environment’, adding that the building’s ‘design and compatibility with its setting have distinct quality’.
However, it said the building ‘relies on considerable repetition of standardised parts and has undergone alteration to its exterior at ground floor level and to its interiors’.
Ian Nairn, writing in The Architectural Review in 1960, said: ‘The sum of rebuilding in the three largest English provincial cities [Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester] is just two decent big buildings – Ringway Centre in Birmingham and Albert Bridge House in Manchester … the one really hopeful building in Birmingham is Ringway Centre … the total effect, easily apparent here, is to create a wall with gates in.’
Commenting on the immunity from listing, Birmingham architect and urban designer Joe Holyoak told the AJ: ‘This is disappointing news. There is a real purge of outstanding mid-20th Century architecture in Birmingham. I wouldn’t claim it was a conspiracy, but it is a depressing trend.’
And architectural writer and teacher Andrew Higgott said: ‘Even I wouldn’t say it is a great piece of architecture. Its concrete cladding is crudely done. But there is a sense in which there is not much left of 1960s Birmingham and future generations might think that is a shame.’
Responding to the criticisms, Iain MacSween, development manager at CEG, said: ‘We have consulted with the relevant authorities, local businesses and residents, as well as participating in a CABE design review and presenting to the council’s Conservation Heritage Panel in order to formulate a vibrant, attractive development for this site.
‘The scheme is also in line with Birmingham City Council’s Big City Plan, which outlines an ambition to grow the city core by accommodating greater levels of economic and cultural activity.’