Birmingham is the second largest metropolis in the UK and has the biggest canal system of any European city. I hadn't visited Birmingham in nearly 25 years, but I had decided to go and see the outside of the new Selfridges shop, which had looked so amazing in

I parked in a new multi-storey car park in Brindley Place and headed towards the centre of town. I was immediately impressed by the buildings, the cafes, and the cleanliness of the canals by the National Indoor Arena, with its roundabout for canal barges. I also had to smile at the presence of a National Sea Life centre in central England.

I walked along Broad Street, past Symphony Hall and the Birmingham Rep. The monument to Watt, Boulton, and Murdock flared on the opposite side of the street .The three figures are bronze with a gold finish that requires sunglasses to look at. These men were at the forefront of the technological revolution that made Birmingham a world leader in manufacturing in the 19th Century. Heading through the central library, I emerged in Chamberlain Square, where an artificial beach had been set up. Women wearing burqas were sitting on deckchairs as their kids made sandcastles or watched the giant TV screen by the Victorian Town Hall.

New Street had been pedestrianised and was full of people eating at the cafes and enjoying the sunshine. This street used to be full of traffic with the buildings showing the effects of the air pollution.

At the junction with High Street, the Bull Ring rotunda has been retained as a symbol of modernism and to my mind, a reminder of how depressing this area of the city used to be. Heading towards Moor Street station the old indoor shopping precinct has gone. I turned right and saw what I had come to see. The distinctive round silver decorations of the new Selfridges headed up towards the bright blue sky. There are 15,000 of these aluminium discs bolted to the skin of the building and they are designed to reflect the sunlight. To some people this building is The Blob or the Digbeth Dalek. To me it is a bold design that flows in vertical waves around the west, south, and east sides of the city block. The wall sweeps upwards from the ground, tapers in slightly and then curves outwards again near the top.

julian200Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at