The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Events Archive

Paradise Lost, History in the Unmaking




Paradise Lost, History in the Unmaking

Tuesday 23 November 2021 at 6.30pm

Andy Howlett presents on line his film about Birmingham Central Library   Paradise Lost – History in the Unmaking, (84 minutes) introduced by Otto Saumerez Smith and followed by Q&A. The library was an outstanding example of post war civic architecture designed by John Madin, completed 1973. C20 campaigned to have the building listed, but despite Historic England twice recommending listing, the building was demolished in 2016.

When filmmaker Andy Howlett set out with his camera to document the final days of the condemned Birmingham Central Library complex, little did he know the rabbit hole he was stumbling into. Decried by the City Council as an eyesore but hailed by Historic England as an exemplar of postwar design, the story of John Madin's concrete colossus and the fight to save it is a curious one. In this psychogeographic detective story, Howlett weaves together archive footage with on-the-ground explorations in an attempt to figure out why we lost Paradise and how it might be regained.

Andy Howlett is a Birmingham-based artist and filmmaker interested in concrete, skateboarding, guerrilla heritage, urban exploration and expanded cinema.

Members:  £4. Non-Members: £6.

We will send you a Zoom link by email after you book, which will enable you to “join” the event, and we’ll be using the Q&A function to take questions at the end. If you’ve not used Zoom before, clicking on the Zoom link will take you through the set-up process, hopefully simply and smoothly! You should receive an automated link within an hour of booking so please check your spam/junk emails if you haven't received this. Any further problems please contact

Not a member yet? Join here and benefit from event ticket discounts. Looking to support our campaigning? Donate to our casework  here.

The Twentieth Century Society is a registered charity, no 1110244

Above: Birmingham Central Library. Photograph: Andy Howlett

The Twentieth Century Society is an IHBC (Institute of Historic Building conservation) recognised CPD provider.