A giant copper tree will be put up in the Bullring despite city heritage advisers and councillors questioning the artwork.
The council’s planning committee approved the spiral metal design for the new Spiceal Street restaurants development, even though many were unconvinced by the design.
The 44ft tall tree will be made with the reclaimed copper roof from the Spiral Cafe which was removed to make way for the new row of restaurants.
But planning committee members were baffled by the significance of the design.
Coun Mike Sharpe (Lab Tyburn) said: “I’ve never seen any trees like this. It looks more like a lollipop you would get at a fairground.”
Coun Bob Beauchamp (Con Erdington) added: “If you want a tree, why not plant a real tree.”
He added: “I would also worry about using such a large amount of copper, with some of the thieving going on.”
Their views were echoed by the council’s heritage advisory panel, which supported the use of public art, but were not happy with the choice.
Tim Bridges, of the Victorian Society, said: “This is a place of historic buildings and a retail centre, I can’t see what a tree has to do with it. We wanted something of significance to Birmingham’s past or future.”
Bullring Shopping Centre owner Hammerson, as part of its planning consent for the three new restaurants, agreed to pay up to £100,000 for the new piece of public art in the square.
It appointed sculptor Wolfgang Buttress to create the piece, which is inspired by the philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
The spiral, when viewed sideways, follows the soundwave pattern created by a falling tree.
It is also based on a mathematical pattern, the Fibonacci Sequence, which also inspired the Spiral Cafe design.
The shell-like cafe structure, built in 2005, will be relocated a site off Newhall Street, near the old Science Museum.