John Madin at School of Architecture, 1941 John Madin, Second Lieutenant, at home Yardleywood Rd 1944 John Madin, Captain, outside officers mess, Cario, 1947 John Madin, Birmingham Citizens PBS, 1954 John Madin, Birmingham Calthorpe Estate Plan Launch, 1958 John Madin at his office 83-85 Hagley Rd, c1961 John Madin, Radcliffe House, Hagley Rd, c1962 John Madin, Radcliffe House, Hagley Rd, c1964
John Madin, Dawley New Town Presentation c1964 John Madin describing Birmingham Post & Mail model, c1965 John Madin at Breaking Ground, Pebble Mill, 1967 John Madin at 123 Hagley Road office c1969 John Madin at site in Telford c1970 John Madin at 123 Hagley Road c1974 John Madin, Chamberlain Square Birmingham, c1990 John Madin, 2011
John Madin Architect & Planner
John Madin’s Christmas Card 1951 – As he saw Birmingham then and how he thought it should be


JOHN MADIN 1924 - 2012

I hope to see in the near future a greater and a more beautiful Birmingham, and I also wish that I shall be one of those lucky men who will, with care and sympathy, be able to graft our City into the finest in the World. If this war has ever done anything for the British people, it has given the enlightened ones of the generation the chance to create a better and healthier place to live in. The German bombs have stricken down so many of our towns’ buildings that it will be a simple matter to widen our thorough fares and build new offices and shops.

Extract from “The Future of Birmingham”, by John Madin aged 16
17 December 1940

John Madin’s teenage vision for Birmingham was not realized for its city centre, despite his subsequent strong advocacy for a three-dimensional master plan for the area within the future inner ring road. Nonetheless, his own contribution to Birmingham’s recovery in the aftermath of the war was significant and positive. In particular, Madin was responsible for the master plan for the redevelopment of the 1625 acre Calthorpe Estate (1958) just to the west of the city centre and much of its subsequent implementation, and buildings within the city, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Central Library, BBC Pebble Mill and the Warwickshire Masonic Temple.

Madin’s work, however, extended far beyond the bounds of Birmingham, including projects as diverse and far afield as the master plan for Telford new town, the Yorkshire Post and Mail Building, the radio and television complex (in association with Marconi) in Zagreb, and the Wardija Hill Top Village in Malta.

Madin embraced Modernism at the Birmingham School of Architecture on returning from war service in 1947. He visited Stockholm in 1949. Functionalism had been the dominant architectural style in Sweden since its capital’s exhibition of 1930; Stockholm was also at the forefront of town planning. These factors, combined with the fact that the city was a huge contrast to his war ravaged home town, inspired Madin and helped to crystallize his vision for Birmingham, illustrated in his 1951 Christmas card, which included two sketches: one of Birmingham as he saw it then, the other as he thought it should be.

Madin believed buildings should have an appearance of ‘simplicity and sincerity’, the design of a building evolving from a full understanding of the brief, particularly through its planning. He gave high importance to a building’s relationship with its natural surroundings, the linking of indoors and outside, the use of moving water, honestly expressing materials and careful detailing. Madin designed modernist-style fittings and furnishings, including carpets, curtains, furniture door handles and even cutlery to complement his buildings, and also commissioned and integrated work by well-known artists of the day. Madin worked within the constraints of the labour force of the time. The lack of skilled bricklayers in the 1950s, for example, led him to use concrete frames for non-domestic buildings, cladding them with marble, granite or mosaic finished panels, which also provided a self cleansing surface to accommodate the severe pollution of the time. He embraced new technology with component companies, particularly the glazing manufacturer Henry Hope, and was also innovative in the ways he found to minimise the impact of the car. From a base in his parent’s study in 1950, Madin’s practice grew by the mid-sixties into one of the largest multi-disciplinary practices in the country, with a broad-based workload divided between the public and the private sector, and between specialised one-off buildings and town planning work. Madin’s energy, enthusiasm and the trust clients had in him were essential ingredients to his success. He was able to look beyond the client’s initial brief at the bigger picture, and was skilled at getting landowners, users, tenants and investors to work together creatively.

Though Madin is currently being primarily remembered for the Birmingham Central Library, hopefully in viewing the 132 page e-book “John Madin Architect + Planner – An illustrated Record” that can be downloaded from this website’s home page, the reader will really appreciate the breath and sustained quality of his work. He remained focused on architecture and what he would be doing next on his on-going project in Aberdovey (Aberdyfi), right up until 11.30pm on the 8th January 2012.

Any memories and reflections on John Madin and his work would be welcome, please use the contact page of this website to do so, thank you.

Christopher Madin