img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="")

Smallbrook Ringway, ‘The one really hopeful building in Birmingham’

Suzanne Waters

Ian Nairn praised this example of the post war rebuilding of Birmingham but James A Roberts’ 1970 Smallbrook Ringway is set to be demolished

Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

With the Mark II Ford Cortina in the foreground, this image encapsulates the post war transformation of British regional city centres. On the left is the curving block of the Smallbrook Ringway, which developer CEG was recently given permission to demolish despite a campaign to protect it. Completed in 1960, the block was praised by Ian Nairn as ‘the one really hopeful building in Birmingham’. It was the first section of the new ring road to be completed, linking the town hall to New Street Station. Designed by James A Roberts of the City Architects Department, it incorporated a bridge section over Hurst Street supported on giant V-shaped piloti and contained four storeys of office accommodation above a shopping parade at street level. At 230m it was one of the longest single retail frontages in the country. The facade is enlivened with precast concrete panels and boldly curved uplighters. The building was part of a plan by Herbert Manzoni, city surveyor and engineer, to concentrate bus stops and car parks in the city centre, in recognition of the rise of the private motor car and to help traffic run smoothly through the centre.