The proposed new home for the world famous Birmingham Conservatoire has been likened to a cheese-grater and an Oxo cube by council planners.
But despite some criticism of the design the council’s planning committee gave their full backing to the £40 million relocation of the music school to Eastside, next to Millennium Point from Paradise Circus .
It’s current home at Paradise Circus is set to be demolished in 2017 and councillors were asked for their views on the new Conservatoire which is to include a performance hall, teaching and practice rooms, public areas and offices.
But while committee members were all in favour of the move to Jennens Road, which will place the arts venue at the heart of the city’s growing university district, they were divided over the design.
Coun John Clancy (Lab, Quinton) said: “While I totally accept there are constraints of space, size and time scale, I do not like the exterior. It is blocky and looks like an over turned cheese grater. It doesn’t look modern, more like something from the 60s.”
But this was rebuffed by Coun Peter Douglas Osborn (Cons, Weoley) who said: “It doesn’t grate on me. It is very attractive and will add to the character of the area.”
Coun John Alden (Cons, Harborne) was similarly impressed: “I think it’s tremendous and am delighted we’re going to have a brick building.”
He argued that brick is a more timeless material. “I hope this will last a lot longer than the existing musical emporium,” criticising the current concrete venue which was built in the early 1970s.
There was a balanced view from coun Martin Straker Welds (Lab, Moseley and Kings Heath) who said it reminded him of an Oxo cube adding: “I would like to see some more glass and something which makes a statement about the building and the music.”
On the whole the committee liked the building and it seems likely that it will get a smooth ride through the planning process ready for construction to begin next year.
The Conservatoire’s Graham Rhodes said: “We are very pleased they supported the location and accepted the rational behind the design. We have to leave Paradise Circus by June 2017, so we are on a very tight time scale.”
There has been some criticism of the design after it was unveiled on the Birmingham Post’s facebook page.
Comments inculded one from reader Lucy Scott Evans said: “I thought Birmingham was busy knocking down it’s Brutalist architecture?”
But Birmingham City University’s Professor David Roberts defended the design, pointing out that fashionable glass fronted buildings are not suitable for music performance.
He said: “A conservatoire is a special kind of building. It’s a place for teaching and a place for performing. It must contain sound and project it, with walls of a certain thickness to keep sound in, and concert spaces of a certain height to let sound bloom.”