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Birmingham Library Archive Visit

Research for Re-Worlding exhibition.

Remaking Birmingham - the visual culture of urban regeneration (Kennedy, 2014)

the visual culture of urban regeneration as a key context for understanding the remaking of the city p.1

the relationship between historical and contemporary ways of seeing and representing change in Birmingham.

'consider how the design and building of the cityscape encode visual understandings of urban space; how the relationship between the built environment and social process is mediated by the visual forms of the city' p.1


Birmingham as a city that embraced utopian visions of modernist urban planning. - embraced the car - 'championed mechanisation, mass production and the rational engineering of urban community.'

connection within 70s identifying Birmingham with the failures of modernist project - social and aesthetic failures - dystopian urban decline - reviled concrete brutalism - disconnection with the pedestrian

- 'waves of creative destruction' - 'levelling and rebuilding in the image of an imagined urban future'

Joseph Chamberlain's Improvement Scheme of the 1970s - adopting motto Forward

'creative descturction' 'disalects of erasure and renewel are forever being payed out' p.2

Design and planning often chosen to liberate and create movement within and around the city

'You should go to Birmingham to see the drama of a city, all too visibly, in an eternal struggle with itself' (Jefferies 2000, p.17)


'the relationship between the built environment and social process is mediated by the visual forms of the city'

'role of urban arts and culture in producing and contesting the cities symbolic economy'

'regeneration [seen as] the relationship between aesthetic, cultural and social-economic practices'

Life Between Buildings Gehl 1996

p.13 'the inhabitation of public space is political, because if raises issues of ownership, of control, of conflicts of use, of limits on freedom of activity, which affect the well-being of the individual and the community, and on which decisions have somehow to be made'


The street: as a sociable space - encounter the unknown and un planned

The private: preferred - used due to fear or distrust of the street

The privatisation of public space

'the reduction of the public sphere of the nation' p.23

- introduced by the Thatcher government in the 80s - now seen to be even more expanded

lack of common ownership - of space, of the means of supply, of health and educational institutions - and the idea that these embody and represent the community. p.23

as such new buildings are now developed for the private sector and serve as business products - do not serve the community - leads new architectural developments to devalue the community and social economy - disconnected and dystopian. Leads these developments to be inflexible, monocultural and contained within its boundaries - does not become part of the larger city

Connection between architecture/city planning and the consumer - shopper and consumerism


Ornamental - e.g. great western arcade in 1876. Central Arcade and Imperial Arcade in 1883. Colonnade Passage and the City Arcade in 1897

seen as a space of 'protection from both traffic and the elements' 'a miniature city' p.28

'the architecture of consumption reveals the mythologies of its contemporary space and time' p.31

Cedric Price - radical architect

'advocating radical master plans to transform the whole area to what would now be called a cultural quarter: to regenerate [...] through cultural activities' p.55

this provides places for change - challenge the status quo


'a genuine fusion between art and community regeneration and is about people taking control' - how people can 'interact creatively with their built environment ' p.93

Jayne Murray

  • Considering ways of using archives as inspiration for projects

  • Looking at history of Birmingham's changing landscape and how the buildings that surround us are constantly in flux

  • Interest to note how many of the social and political issues concerned around housing, demission and new construction are very similar if not the same as they are today


Kennedy, L., 2014. Remaking Birmingham. 1st ed. Johanneshov: MTM.


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