Vicky Smith picks two Birmingham buildings, one as sharp as a Sabatier knife in an Armani suit, the other an aquarium that combines fear with disappointment …
The Alpha Tower in Birmingham is a wonderful example of architecture. Set at the top of Birmingham’s busy Broad Street and home to the city council, the Alpha Tower is a dramatic and angular office block. The whole building is beautifully detailed and the tower has a crank in the middle which then narrows to brilliantly sharp edges. There is no deviation for windows and the crisp edges against the blue sky create a magnificent sight. I think it’s poignant that Birmingham’s city planners are actually based in such an impressive building.
However Foster and Partners’ Sea Life Centre is a disappointing building on many levels. It is stuck in a corner of Brindleyplace but fails to maximise the impact of the canal which is on two of its elevations. The entrance is intimidating – the roof bends down to a point so people get the feeling of being smothered – and the poor cladding enhances the brooding look of the building. There was great excitement when it was announced that Foster and Partners were building in Birmingham, yet I felt thoroughly let down by this offering.
Vicky Smith is a director at Spear Architects, a West Midlands practice which was established in 1995, and has designed a multifaith centre in Derby