|Image Ref : WK/B11/5390|
This image of Baskerville House nearing completion of construction in
the 1930s is not that different to the same view, after renovation, in
The decision to build a new Civic Centre for Birmingham was
made shortly after the end of World War I, the Council's choice for a
site was a large area lying close to Easy Row and fronting Broad Street,
chosen because it was close to the Town Hall and the Council House. In
1919 the Council began buying up land in the area with the hope of
starting construction of municipal offices.
In 1926, the City
Council organised an open competition to find the best layout for the
Civic Centre. Several entries were received including some from other
countries, the winning design of Maximilian Romanoff of Paris was deemed
'Too Ambitious', as were the other entries, so the City Engineer was
asked to work with one of the competitors and S.N. Cooke, architect of
the Hall of Memory, to create a more modest design. The plan they
offered was approved and building began in 1936.
The first phase
of the project, municipal offices, later to become known as Baskerville
House, was ready for occupation in 1940. Due to the national economic
climate in the 1930s and later the break-out of war in 1939 the grand
scheme originally planned, consisting of "A central parade ground of
over 11 acres, with formal gardens. Around the square would stand more
offices in the same style, a city hall and two smaller halls, a
planetarium and buildings suitable for use as a library, museum or art
gallery." It was also planned to include a 140ft column with a symbolic
statue at the top.
For many reasons, the project got delayed and
diverted and eventually the whole project simply never happened.
Baskerville House was used by the City Council until the 1990s and
eventually sold off for redevelopment by the company 'Targetfollow'.
house was put forward as a potential new home for the central library
during the consultation process for the 'Library
of Birmingham' project around the turn of the new millennium. It was
eventually discounted as the structure of the building wasn't strong
enough for the weight of books that the library would require.