Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Daytripping: Birmingham. . .

I can't say that Birmingham is the most picturesque of English cities; there's a lot of gray concrete on view. But I had a full day to explore the streets and there was one new exciting building that I definitely wanted to visit.  

This is the new ten floor Central Library which opened just a few weeks ago, designed by Francine Houben. I love the boldness and the muted colours - distinctive but not too jarring with the tones of the surrounding buildings.

Here's a peek inside looking up at the escalators.

The stacks of books radiate spoke-like allowing for desks and computers to be placed all around the windows maximizing the natural light and the views.

Up on the seventh floor is "The Secret Garden".  It was a rainy day when I visited but I'm sure it would be a lovely place in the summer to sit and read a book or just enjoy the foliage.

Lots of construction work going on below but some lovely mosaic patterns on the square.

There's also a viewing spot on the ninth floor along with the Shakespeare Memorial Room which architecturally is rather splendid to peek into, but rather useless from a user's perspective.  If I were designing a Shakespeare room, I'd have plenty of editions of his works and books about him to browse through, maybe a listening area to hear great recordings of his plays or a screen with headphones to watch filmed performances. I gather this room is mostly used to host various receptions but there isn't even a table and chairs so it's not very functional for the average patron.

Speaking of Shakespeare, down on the lower level there was a lovely paper sculpture paying tribute to A Midsummer Night's Dream (sorry, I forgot to jot down the artist's name and can't find it on the library website).

Amidst all the concrete are a few notable older buildings.  I spent some time in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which has a nice collection of Pre-Raphaelite art (Edward Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham and has a room dedicated to him) and pieces of the recently discovered Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard on display.

This is the cathedral which is located in a lovely tree-lined square.

And there is some good shopping in the city which is getting ready for its Christmas markets.  This is one of the older streets leading down to New Street, the main pedestrian shopping area. 

Which in turn leads to the Bullring shopping plaza and the juxtaposition of this rather lovely old church . . .

. . . which faces on to the iconic Selfridges building. 

I enjoyed wandering around Birmingham but a day was definitely enough to get a feel for the city even though I'm sure there are lots of interesting neighbourhoods that a local could direct me to. But from a daytripping perspective, I prefer cities with a bit more historical appeal such as Bath, York, Leeds or Manchester.

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