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Birmingham – Pioneer City

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On the surface, Modernist architecture and urbanism rejected the historical city, searching to tidy up the messiness of unplanned growth, of creative destruction in reformatting the urban landscape according to a new measures of speed, access, and, supposedly, equality. This was a pioneer city, operating at the edges of convention, not afraid to experiment in the search for a new truth.

Although Birmingham has been seen as the epitome of the modern city, its’ growth has been framed by the city motto ‘forward’, radically different to contemporary ideas of ‘progress’ – one as a collective act of advancement in context, the other as change at any cost.

Though some twentieth century redevelopment schemes were driven purely by capital, many drew on a rich history of radical social and physical reform in the city, and led the way on new models of building the city for the people. 

In this talk, Michael Dring will explore the taxonomy and notation that was developed for new models of urban space architecture, through interpretations of archival material and the city itself as part of his work with Birmingham Modernist Society, and as a PhD student at the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design.


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