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6th September 2003

The Birmingham Bullring

It was once the largest indoor shopping centre in the world outside of the United States.

The Bullring became as synonymous with Birmingham as Austin Rover and the rich West Midlands dialect. But it also came to represent all that was worse about 1960s civic concrete architecture. Now after a gap of three years and a re-development scheme costing £500 million, the Bullring is back.

The centre now incorporates more than 120 shops, many of them opening in Birmingham for the first time. A new road and public space layout allows for views of the historic St Martin’s Church which was once blocked off by the so-called concrete collar buildings of the old Bullring.

Around £2 million pounds has been spent on new public works of art including a giant broze statute of a bull. Developers say the project will create more than 8,000 jobs and make Birmingham the number shopping destination outside London.
The centrepiece is the new Selfridge’s , a building without any straight lines which is also covered with 16,000 polished aluminium discs - described variously as looking like a blancmange or a spaceship. Not everyone is entirely happy though. Academic and historian Professor Carl Chinn is impressed with the new design but says little has been done to improve the traditional markets which were once part of the old Bullring. He believes that the ordinary working Brummie has been prevented from having a say in the way this crucial part of Birmingham’s culture has been re-shaped and re-developed.

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