Saturday, 15 April 2017

Back in Birmingham I

The bf and I sent part of this week visiting my family in the West Midlands.  On Wednesday we had a full day in Birmingham.  We started with a visit to the university and specifically 'The Barber Institute for the Fine Arts', which was founded in 1932 by Dame Martha Barber after the death of her husband Henry Barber, the Birmingham solicitor and property developer.  The University campus is visually a mess, but at its centre is a great hemicycle of buildings designed by Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930) in an amazingly eclectic style - part Byzantine, part Perpendicular Gothic, part Flemish.  Wholly original.  Wonderfully detailed - like all buildings of that date.  Red brick suitably enough predominates.

 Opened in 1938 the Barber is also a building is hard to nail down stylistically - part Classical, part Art Deco, part Viennese Secession.  The architect was Robert Atkinson (1883-1952).  The best things on the exterior are the strange ventilation towers.  Worth comparing too with the Aston Webb buildings to see the change in taste in little more than a generation.  The interior is full of lovely details, though everything seems curiously flat but very refined; the third dimension is somehow conspicuously lacking.  Anyway at the heart of the building is an auditorium, while wrapped around that central space is, at second floor level, an art gallery with a small(ish) permanent collection that is really very good.

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