The heritage-creation process and attempts to protect buildings of the recent past: the case of Birmingham Central Library

Additional Team members - Matthew Belcher and Mark Tewdwr-Jones

The successful conservation of our built heritage relies upon multi-scalar negotiation between a wide array of stakeholders and agents in the planning process. This negotiation reflects both the values that we ascribe to particular structures and landscapes, and choices about what to retain in response to social, commercial and aesthetic opportunities, preferences and aspirations. We are particularly interested in how redevelopment and regeneration processes often result in the removal of buildings from the recent past – Brutalist buildings from the 1960s, in particular – even though coalitions are built which seek their active protection and conservation. Using the case of Birmingham Central Library (demolished 2015–16) we explore how conservation of the most recent past challenges us – how can buildings of the recent past be deemed heritage, how can they be meaningfully conserved and how are different interests mediated? This paper seeks to uncover the conflicts inherent within the conservation of such buildings, drawing conclusions about the heritage-creation process.