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The Rotunda, including the shops in the podium below the tower

A Grade II Listed Building in Ladywood, Birmingham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4783 / 52°28'42"N

Longitude: -1.8955 / 1°53'43"W

OS Eastings: 407194

OS Northings: 286717

OS Grid: SP071867

Mapcode National: GBR 619.CG

Mapcode Global: VH9YX.3Y8Z

Entry Name: The Rotunda, including the shops in the podium below the tower

Listing Date: 9 August 2000

Last Amended: 29 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1381413

English Heritage Legacy ID: 481774

Location: Birmingham, B4

County: Birmingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Ladywood

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Birmingham

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Birmingham St Martin-in-the-Bull-Ring

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

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Summary

Former office building with shops on the first and ground floors. Begun 1960, completed to revised designs 1964-5 and designed by the architect James Roberts (born 1922). It was converted 2005-2008 by Glenn Howells Architects to create residential apartments.

Description

MATERIALS: a reinforced concrete tower, clad in textured glass spandrel panels and a podium partly clad in mosaic strips.

PLAN: twenty-four storey circular office tower on first-floor single-storey cuneiform podium raised on pilotis and with ground-floor shops on the New Street and St Martins Circus sides.

EXTERIOR: the first-floor podium at the base of the tower has set-back vertical windows within a wall clad in mosaic strips. Originally this ran around the whole of base and the first-floor podium extended over the ground floor. In the early C21 the south elevation was entirely re-clad in glass, as was the east corner where a new entrance to the shop was inserted. Most of the ground floor has been extended to be flush with the floor above, however, the concave south-west elevation maintains the original relationship between the first two floors and creates an interesting contrast to the curve of the tower. This elevation has been slightly extended to create the join with Atwood House, built in the 1970s, and the addition has been designed to continue the concave shape. The north-west elevation has been obscured by the addition of the neighbouring building. A further glass two-storey recessed entrance was inserted in the north-east elevation, and is framed by new mosaic strips which have been used to match the original fabric of the podium. The twenty-four storey circular tower has continuous bands of glazing contrasting with smooth panels. The mosaic panelling around the drum was replaced in the early C21 by textured glass panels, at which point the windows were also replaced and their height was increased creating a greater window to material ratio. The tower is topped by a steel frame parapet.

INTERIOR: parts of the second floor and most of the floors above have been converted to flats in the early C21 and all of these interiors have all been replaced and do not contain any features of special interest. The third floor which had been the Lloyds Bank strong room and has thick internal walls has not been converted, and neither has the top floor which is still used for services. Two of the five original lift shafts have been retained, however, the interiors have been refurbished and new lift machinery inserted. One of the two original stairways, with concrete cantilever dogleg staircase, including the bottom flight of steps with plain black terrazzo flooring, has also been retained. The shops on the ground floor have all been altered internally with the loss of most original features, apart the former Lloyds Bank which features ‘The Rotunda Relief’ a full-height, circa 140 square-metre, ciment-fondu (a form of cast concrete), mural with abstract patterning by John Poole set around the drum of the tower, this is of special interest. Following a change of use to a retail unit, which has involved the insertion of a first floor, only part of the mural is visible; however, the rest survives behind later plasterboard.

History

The Rotunda is the most noted landmark of central Birmingham's wholehearted redevelopment in the 1960s. James Roberts (b. 1922), was a local architect, who worked extensively for the property company Ravenseft, not only in Birmingham but also in Croydon and in central Liverpool. Originally it was constructed as an office block with two floors for shops, two floors for a bank, a floor for the bank’s strong room, sixteen office floors and two floors for services, all topped by a parapet. The mural within the former Lloyds Bank was created by the sculptor John Poole (1926-2009), a local artist who also worked at Coventry, St Paul's and Brentwood Cathedrals as well as in Birmingham (e.g. at RC St Dunstan's, King's Heath). The work is an abstract piece with rich textures that contrast with the smooth form of the building. The Rotunda was built as part of the mid C20 redevelopment of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre in the middle of Birmingham and had originally been planned as a twelve-storey office building; however it was later raised revised to be twenty-four floors. There had also been plans for a revolving restaurant at the top, however this never occurred. In 2004 permission was granted for the change of use from an office building to residential accommodation. In 2005-2008 the building was converted into shops on the two lower floors in the podium with residential accommodation to the other floors, apart form the third floor which was left unused and the top tier which housed the services. The conversion was carried out with listed building consent by Glenn Howells Architects, who had input from the original architect James Roberts, for Urban Splash.

Reasons for Listing

The Birmingham Rotunda, including the shops in the podium below the tower, is listed for the following principal reasons:

* Design: it is unique in Britain to find an office building in such a simple form and exemplifies the move towards simpler shapes found in art and applied art in the early 1960s, which is rarely found within English architecture;
* Architectural interest: despite the external alterations the building, designed by the architect James Roberts, maintains its distinctive appearance as a cylindrical tower with horizontal banding;
* Interior: most of the interiors of the flats in the tower and shops below are not of special interest; however, the full-height ciment-fondu mural by John Poole, an impressive abstract piece, set around the drum of the tower and still evident in one of the retail units within the podium, does contribute to the building’s special interest, as does the surviving cantilever staircase within the main tower;
* Setting: the building forms a prominent landmark on a hilltop site, described by the Architects' Journal as 'forming a climax to the entry to the city’.

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