PRESS RELEASE : Birmingham: The Brutiful Years. New book celebrates the city’s iconic post-war architecture

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Birmingham: The Brutiful Years

"A beautifully designed book that gives Birmingham brutalism a distinctive identity that I hadn’t really appreciated until I saw it all together."

Elain Harwood, Historic England 

Birmingham’s urban history is being celebrated with a new book documenting the city’s Brutalist past as never before.

Birmingham: The Brutiful Years puts the spotlight on the city’s often under-appreciated post-war architecture, with striking images alongside essays on some of Birmingham’s most iconic locations, as well as some of its lesser-known modernist gems.

Spaghetti Junction, the Ringway Centre, The Rotunda and Corporation Square all feature, alongside Brutalist buildings such Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Ashley and Strathcona Buildings at Birmingham University, and Neville House on Harborne Road.

The book also highlights some of the city’s modernist public art, such as the Hockley Circus ‘Climbing Wall’, designed by sculptor William Mitchell, and John Piper's Mosaic in the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

Some of Birmingham’s lesser-known post-war churches are also featured, including St. Thomas More Church in Sheldon, St. Matthews Church Perry Beeches, and Our Lady Help of Christians in Tile Cross.

Birmingham: The Brutiful Years highlights three home-grown architects in particular whose cutting-edge designs helped to reshape post-war Birmingham: John Madin, who designed the majority of Birmingham’s finest Brutalist buildings; Graham Winteringham, best known for the Birmingham Repertory theatre, and James Roberts, whose work included The Rotunda.

The book is made up of a collection of 22 articles written for The Birmingham Post by The Brutiful Action Group, founded by local residents Mary Keating, Jenny Marris and John Bell.

The group came together seven ears ago, when Birmingham's Central Library - considered an icon of British Brutalism - was about to be demolished. They began writing for The Birmingham Post  six years ago, highlighting the plight of the Ringway Centre, and have

since written over 60 articles discussing the architectural merit and the heritage value of Birmingham’s Brutalist buildings, and raising awareness of those that are under threat of demolition.

Birmingham: The Brutiful Years is published by The Modernist Society,  a creative project dedicated to celebrating and engaging with twentieth century architecture, through publishing, events, exhibitions and creative collaborations.

Designed by local Birmingham designer Sharonjit Sutton, the book launches in September to coincide with Birmingham Heritage Week (9th-18th September) and will be available at the modernist online shop.

Mary Keating, co-founder of The Brutiful Action Group, says: “This period was a time of edevelopment and creativity for the city, an era when Birmingham became one of the leaders of architectural innovation.

“Despite this, there is very little protection for this period of architecture, and many of the buildings featured in the book are under threat. Through Birmingham: The Brutiful Years, we are preserving an important piece of history and highlighting the value and heritage context of these iconic buildings before they are lost.”

“There is a new enthusiasm for Brutalism, particularly amongst younger generations, who really seem to recognise the merits of these buildings. This is fantastic to see. We’ve primarily chosen to feature locations and buildings that are currently still there, so hopefully people will be able to visit and admire them.” 

Jack Hale of The Modernist Society, says: “Brutalist architecture can be divisive - but love it or not - these buildings are unique, original, and an important part of Birmingham’s heritage.”

Birmingham: The Brutiful Years is a fitting tribute to some true masterpieces of modernist design, with a real sense of history and nostalgia. We hope that it helps people to appreciate the value of this period of Birmingham’s architectural history.” 

Birmingham: The Brutiful Years is available to pre order from 29th of July

at the modernist online shop.

Editor’s notes:  

About The Modernist Society:

Founded as The Manchester Modernist Society in 2009 by Jack Hale, Eddy Rhead and Maureen Ward, The Modernist Society is a creative project dedicated to celebrating and engaging with twentieth century architecture, through publishing, events, exhibitions and creative collaborations.

Publishing arm 'the modernist' was established in 2011, initially publishing as a quarterly printed magazine. the modernist is now developing into a small press, publishing limited editions about 20th century architecture and design. The editor of the modernist is Ashiya Eastwood.

The Modernist Society enjoys the support of its excellent Patrons: Jonathan Meades and Johnny Marr. The Modernist Society is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company.