Photograph of Birmingham Central Library, 1974

Brutalist masterpiece or urban eyesore? Birmingham Central Library has served the city well for nearly 40 years.



Photograph of Birmingham Central Library from 1974

Four buildings have been purpose built in the last 140 years to house Birmingham’s main public library. Prince Charles famously criticised the John Madin-designed library building, which opened in 1974. But in capturing its bold angular shapes and strong shadows, this photograph from the RIBA’s Architectural Press Archive shows the sculptural qualities of Madin’s Brutalist-style library at their best. Superseded by Mecanoo’s 2014 Stirling Prize-nominated library, this year it will follow its Victorian predecessors into demolition. While the city has gained a fantastic new education facility, it now risks losing its modern heritage.

Article by Wilson Yau
British Architectural Library, RIBA
8 January 2015

Image: Photograph of Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham, from 1974
Architect: John Madin Design Group
Photographer: Sam Lambert (1927-1981)
Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection



This item is part of our collections at the British Architectural Library. Admission is free and everyone is welcome to learn and visit. Discover more images from our collections online via RIBApix or contact our Information Centre if you have any questions about architecture.


References available from the Library: 

  1. Image from RIBApix 
  2. Anon, 1974. Birmingham central library. Architects' Journal, vol.159, no.21, 1974 May 22, pp. 1137-1157
  3. Maudsley, J. A., 1970. Central library at Paradise Circus, Birmingham. Building, vol.219, 1970 July 10, pp. 57-58