The reconstruction of British cities following World War II is characterized by a marked gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Visions for ideal cities, in particular those growing out of the modern movement in architecture, were diluted and warped by the 'messy' business of reconstructing actual cities, filled with real people whilst operating within democratic structures. This paper examines elements of this confrontation of the ideal and the real, by looking at the context for changes to the urban fabric within a single housing estate in Birmingham, self-nominated 'second city' of Britain. The overarching theme is of historical continuity and change - the extent to which the urban fabric has been destroyed and remade. As such, the paper examines not only the nominally 'modern' post-war reconstruction, but also how a contemporary, 'post-modern' phase of redevelopment is dealing with the city form created in the 1950s and 1960s.