The Birmingham Post and Mail Building

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Birmingham, Post and Mail Building

The finest commercial development of the 1960s in Birmingham is the PostGlossary Term and Mail Building in Colmore Circus, designed in 1960 by John H.D. Madin and Partners (partner in charge, D.V. Smith, project architects Ronald E. Cordin and Ramon K. Wood). It's an early example of a podiumGlossary Term and slab blockGlossary Term, inspired by the Lever Building in New York.

It is also now the earliest surviving example of the type nationally as the Castrol Building in London has been altered and re-faced. But it's more than just an office block, it's an integrated newspaper production facility with the podiumGlossary Term and slab offices linked to a separately treated but very fine attached printing works.

When it was built the Architects' Journal gave it a twenty page description and said that its 'well considered exterior... sets a new standard among some extremely dull neighbours' in Birmingham. Douglas Hickman in his 1971 book on Birmingham buildings said that it 'set a new standard for commercial building in the city centre' and calls it 'a remarkable achievementGlossary Term'. Alexandra Wedgwood in 'The Buildings of England: Warwickshire' (1966) says that it is 'marked by characteristic good detail and good use of materials'. Madins regarded it as one of their two most important works - the other, ten years later, being the Central Library.

The building is now condemned to demolition, probably later this year, after two listing attempts failed. Planning permission has been given for a new, taller tower on the site, and for replacement office and printing works for the PostGlossary Term and Mail on the edge of the city.

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Birmingham, Post and Mail Building, Main Front

The main block and tower is a reinforcedGlossary Term concreteGlossary Term and steel structure with glass and aluminium claddingGlossary Term panels on tower. Beautiful materials are used: in the podiumGlossary Term the concreteGlossary Term beams are clad in mullions of black Argentine granite enclosing fillets of white Sicilian marble.

The plan is based on the natural flow of newspaper production: at the right-hand end on Colmore Circus, a double-storey advertisement hall with directors' offices above. The entrance hall is at the left hand end of this block, and the tower, comprising mainly lettable offices, rises above. The outstanding dramatic feature of the exterior is the tall open arcadeGlossary Term which links the advertisement hall to the editorial office across the front courtyard. To the left of the editorial block is the printing works with a composing room at top, a two-storey publishing area below it, and a machine hall in a deep basementGlossary Term.



In heraldry, a complete display of armorial bearings.


Series of arches supported by piers or columns (compare colonnade). Blind arcade or arcading: the same applied to the wall surface. Wall arcade: in medieval churches, a blind arcade forming a dado below windows. Also a covered shopping street.


Lowest, subordinate storey; hence the lowest part of a classical elevation, below the piano nobile or principal storey.


External covering or skin applied to a structure, especially a framed building.


Composition of cement (calcined lime and clay), aggregate (small stones and rock chippings), sand and water. It can be poured into formwork or shuttering (temporary framing of timber or metal) on site (in-situ concrete) or pre-cast as components before construction. Reinforced: incorporating steel rods to take the tensile force. Pre-stressed: with tensioned steel rods. Finishes include the impression of boards left by formwork (board-marked or shuttered), and texturing with steel brushes (brushed or bush-hammered), picks or hammers (pick-hammered or hammer-dressed).


A continuous raised platform supporting a building; or a large block of two or three storeys beneath a multi-storey block of smaller area.


Upright support in a structure.


Of concrete: incorporating steel rods to take the tensile force.

Slab block

A multi-storey block with flats approached from corridors or galleries from service cores at intervals or towers at the ends (plan also used for offices, hotels etc.)