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Brum? No brum brums ...

9th November, 2016 by Steve J

The other weekend we took our daughter to have a look around the University of Birmingham. As we drove down the dreaded M6 it started to rain. The drive into the city from the A38M is not for the faint hearted as the road disappears into underpasses plunging from daylight to gloom and back again. But once we’d made it to the park and ride and waved off our daughter and friend to explore the Uni, we took the train back into the city. This is not a city I know particularly well so I had prepared a rough itinerary.

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From New Street station we found our way to the striking Selfridges building, designed by Future Systems. (Can it really be 13 years since it opened?) As we got there the sun emerged lighting up the stunning exterior - a structure that looks like it came from an episode of Doctor Who. Internally it is a more conventional retail environment but not a straight line to be seen anywhere.
After a delicious scrambled eggs and smoked salmon breakfast in the Balcony Bar we carried on exploring the city centre, now growing on me rapidly. Through The Mailbox complex and down to the canal basin then up to the new library, designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo. I found the interior hugely disappointing although the exterior is fun in the October sunshine.

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But crossing from Centenary Square towards Victoria Square something struck me. Considering we were in the middle of a vast city it was noticeably quiet. Compared to London or even Manchester, in big chunks of the city centre the traffic is cleverly hidden from view. Those dreaded underpasses are there for a purpose. They leave you more able to wander, to look up, take in the architecture and the ambience of this great city. Of course there is work in progress with new construction under way behind the magnificent Town Hall. Few cities are perfect but there was something about Birmingham that I really liked.

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