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Saturday19 August 2017

Anger as another Madin building set for demolition after listing refusal

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Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry granted immunity from listing

Another of John Madin’s important Midlands buildings is set for the wrecking ball after it was given immunity from listing by the DCMS.

The 1958 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry buildings on Harborne Road, Edgbaston, is an “undervalued masterpiece”, said the Twentieth Century Society, greeting the news with “extreme disappointment”.

Conservation adviser Tess Pinto criticised Historic England’s decision not to list it, warning this would be its “death knell”.

Nothing now stands in the way of the owners starting work on a consented mixed-use scheme involving three buildings for the site.

Like many of John Madin’s commercial designs, the Chamber of Commerce is characterised by careful detailing, use of high-quality natural materials and craftsmanship, said Pinto.

Deborah Williams, Historic England’s regional listing team leader, 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.”

But Pinto said: “We are of the opinion that 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.”

The estate was masterplanned by Madin and contains a number of his projects. The architect, who was born in Birmingham and died in 2012, has recently suffered the loss of a number of his key buildings, including Birmingham Library and the NatWest Tower on Colmore Row.

Concern now centres on the fate of a John Piper mosaic in the entrance hall of the chamber of commerce, although a s106 agreement requires its relocation.

“This unique work by one of the most important British artists of the period is now extremely vulnerable, and its superb architectural setting will certainly be lost,” said Pinto.

The decision not to list the mural individually was “particularly incongruous” with Historic England’s commitment to the protection of post-war public art, she added. HE is behind the Out There: Our Post-War Public Art exhibition currently on at Somerset House.

Historic England was contacted for comment.

Twentieth Century Society statement

The Chamber of Commerce building by John Madin Design partnership (1958) is of both local and national importance.

Like Birmingham Central Library, the Post and Mail building and 103 Colemore Row before it, the Chamber of Commerce will be razed to the ground in order to make way for new development.

John Madin grew up in Birmingham and eventually established his practice there. Although his buildings have been hugely important in shaping the post-war city, his significance as an architect has long been overlooked. In the light of important new research which has established Madin as a key figure in post-war British architecture and the widespread demolition of some of his finest buildings, The Twentieth Century Society hoped that HE would reconsider their previous decision in 2004 which also declined to recommend the building for listing.

Like many of John Madin’s commercial designs, the Chamber of Commerce is characterised by careful detailing, use of high quality natural materials and craftsmanship. It is comprised of two office blocks at right angles to one another, connected at the juncture by a shared entrance. The Chamber of Commerce occupied the more elaborate lower block, with the larger more extensively glazed block purposed for letting. The internal arrangement of the two blocks is spacious, with many striking features such as the sunken centred ceiling and panelling in the President’s Room still in situ.

 

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