The Spiral Cafe, built in 2005, is quite a late addition to the modern Bullring Shopping Centre which was opened to crowds in the hundreds upon thousands (the escalators felt it – I was there!) on September 4, 2003.
Designed by Marks Barfield Architects of London Eye fame, it is a simple structure that does not jump up and scream out at you, though, you are always aware of its presence. The design, resembling a shell of the coastline, is clad in bronze with glass facing both ends. The rustic texture and colour of the bronze cladding does form a contrast to the clean bricks and limestone steps surrounding it. Despite this contrast, it still fits in well to its surroundings.
The Bull Ring is an area of architectural and artistic variety, with a clear example being the Selfridges store by Future Systems. With it’s 15,000 spun aluminium discs on a blue concrete background forming an elegant and organic form, it has most-definitely become an international icon of Birmingham. Art has played a major role in the Bull Ring development with the erection of three light wands in Rotunda Square, three Cube fountains in St Martin’s Square and a large holographic mural adorning the entrance facing New Street Station.
Marks Barfield Architects’ art work here is different in that it has a purpose to it. It is interactive and useful. What I find most intriguing about it are the impressions of scale you receive from when looking at it externally and then entering it. From the outside, it appears so small that it seems impossible for any form of institution to be capable of working from there. However, when you enter the edifice, the area seems so much larger and it is quite impressive.
The storage facility is held in a small extruded form of the shell shape to the rear which is barely noticeable. You only see it unless you actually go looking for it. It, itself, is clad in bronze. In fact, the very existence and use of the bronze resulted in the building receiving a Copper Award.
And rightly so as the structure is impressive on a small scale. I feel that it is not rightly appreciated or rightly approached but it is in the perfect location. So, go and sit down under the shell, enjoy a cup of coffee with a snack to bite and relax as you admire the views over east Birmingham.