The Rotunda in Birmingham is a Grade-II Listed icon at the heart of the city. The circular skyscraper has graced the city’s skyline since the 1960s. Over the years it has been described as a modern-day beacon, a candle in the sky and a giant pill box. We used to call it “an upended Smarties tube” until Smarties tubes were changed from cylindrical to hexagonal. However you describe Rotunda, you certainly can’t miss this wonderful 1960s building.
BUILDING THE ROTUNDA
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The original architect – the late James Roberts – designed the building as an office block when it opened in 1965. However, he actually lived on the top floor for many years in a penthouse. We can’t say we blame him – the views over the city from the penthouses are wonderful. On a clear day, you can see for miles.
The Rotunda’s base originally housed a bank (with vaults) and various shops and leisure outlets. Rotunda’s ground floor formed part of the central shopping district known (then and now) as the Bullring.
SAVING THE ROTUNDA
The Rotunda has had an eventful history, including an IRA bombing in 1974 and the threat of demolition in 1993. It was saved by English Heritage and given a Grade II listed building status in 2000. It sat empty for a few years until the Birmingham Alliance – owners of the Bullring Estate – approached the innovative Manchester-based developers, Urban Splash, in 2004.
Multi-award winning developers, Urban Splash, were chosen because of their reputation as pioneers in urban regeneration and advocates of modern design.
Urban Splash appointed another award-winning company, this time Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Architects to design the new look Rotunda. The two companies had worked together in Manchester. Birmingham-based Glenn only has to look out of his office window to see Rotunda, clearly visible against the skyline.
Work started on site in 2005 and it took approximately two and a half years to lovingly restore the building. Glenn Howells collaborated with Jim Roberts, Rotunda’s original architect, throughout the redevelopment. The tower’s proportions and simple form were retained. Jim Roberts envisaged having floor-to-ceiling windows in the original design, but these were replaced with half windows due to budget constraints. The current building not only has floor-to-ceiling windows but it has ones that open fully like French windows with Juliet balconies (plus wraparound balconies on the top floor).
PRESENT DAY ROTUNDA
There was a three-hour sales frenzy in 2005 when every residential apartment was sold. Allocated on a first come first served basis, the queue of potential buyers stretched around the building. Many people slept out overnight in a bid to snap up a piece of the famous landmark beneath Staying Cool’s serviced apartments.
There are now 234 apartments in total, made up of studios, one and two-bed apartments, duplexes and penthouses. Staying Cool has 35 of these apartments across the top five floors of the building.
Reinvented, rejuvenated and reconfigured, Rotunda is once again a beacon for the city. It is still located right next to the Bullring shopping centre. As a result, it has a Zara womenswear store in its basement and Selfridges Birmingham as its ‘corner shop’.
LOCATION IN BIRMINGHAM
The Rotunda is right between Birmingham’s two main train stations. It’s just three minutes on foot from Birmingham New Street and also Moor Street. Between them, these two stations serve London; Birmingham airport (just ten minutes by train); the NEC; Bicester Village designer outlet: and, of course, the rest of the United Kingdom.
HS2, when it opens in 2028, will be less than a two-minute walk away.
Stay for as little as one night in Staying Cool’s serviced apartments located on floors 16-20 of the Rotunda. Prices range from £99 to £750 per night in studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments and of course the top floor penthouses.