It might be a landmark in the heart of the city but Selfridges has been dismissed by Birmingham's culture director as "just another shop".
And in an equally scathing attack on Spaghetti Junction, Brian Gambles described the heart of the nation's motorway network as "a road junction".
Mr Gambles, the city council's culture director, launched a thinly-disguised attack on the two icons in a report praising the planned £193 million Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square - a project he is responsible for delivering.
In a document entitled Refreshing the Vision, he said it would be an "uplifting" experience for the city to be "defined by something other than a shop or a road junction" when the library opens in 2013.
But his remarks were described as "appalling" by Michael Wilkes, a member of the library scrutiny committee, even though he is not impressed by Selfridges.
Coun Wilkes said: "We are not defined by these things. We may be blighted by them.
"Selfridges has got us some national publicity, but you either love it or hate it. In my opinion, Selfridges is an infantile design and will date rapidly."
Enthusing about the new building, Mr Gambles wrote: "The Library of Birmingham will be the best public library in the world. It will be an enduring beacon for Birmingham, raising the city's international profile and achieving excellence with local communities.
"It will be a universal meeting place, a hub for the region, an engine for the knowledge economy."
Mr Gambles said the library design would "inspire the soul" adding: "It will do this in three very different ways. Firstly, as a landmark building which comes to define the city and its citizens. Examples from different generations include Liverpool's Liver Building, Birmingham's own Spaghetti Junction or Selfridges, and most recently the Tyne Bridge.
"How uplifting will it be for the city to be defined by something other than a shop or a road junction? Only the highest quality architectural design informed by public views will achieve this outcome."
However, Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem Hall Green), said the library should not be compared against any existing Birmingham "icon" but should stand on its own as a building that would last for generations.
Coun Wilkes, along with other committee members, has been highly sceptical about the library project, doubting whether the Centenary Square building will provide a better experience for users than the Central Library in Paradise Forum.
"It must not be like some of the hideous monstrosities that have been slung up in various places. We want something that people who are in their 20s today will be taking their grandchildren to see," he added.
The number of books in the library is likely to be reduced by about 20 per cent by 2018, according to Mr Gambles' report. Over the same period there will be "massive growth" in the number of titles available online.
Mr Gambles is proposing culling a legacy collection of one million books - volumes that have been bequeathed to the library over many years. He said the books would have to be subject to serious scrutiny to determine which "justify their place in a modern library".
Mr Gambles added: "The best public library in the world is a deliberately provocative, challenging and ambitious statement. But we should be bold. Libraries are diverse, serve different purposes and different communities, and cannot usefully be compared."
A spokeswoman for Selfridges said: "Selfridges welcomes all financial investment in Birmingham and is keen to play a key role in the development of the city. Selfridges is incredibly proud of its iconic building and completely supports the regeneration to make our city an even more attractive destination."