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Construction & regeneration
03 Jun 2019 - Tom Grunt
News & Updates

“Unity, coherence and uniqueness” - that's Birmingham's new Centenary Square!

Work is nearing completion at Birmingham’s Centenary Square. Take this post by Tom Grunt for a latest update, with a gallery of artists impressions from Graeme Massie.

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“Unity, coherence and uniqueness” - that's Birmingham's new Centenary Square!





Work is nearing completion at Birmingham’s Centenary Square. Take this post by Tom Grunt for a latest update, with a gallery of artists impressions from Graeme Massie.


Introduction and Background

In 2014, Birmingham City Council announced, with the help of RIBA, an international competition to find a new design for the tired and, soke would say, unattractive Centenary Square.

An overwhelming 200 entries from across the world were received, of which 5 were shortlisted. The five designs were presented to the public, and to the jury panel.

Graeme Massie Architects were announced to have won in June 2015.

History

The area has been a major public space since the 1920s, but was hit hard, like many parts of Birmingham by the maniacal destruction (read redevelopment) of the post war years.

The creation of the inner ring road in the sixties cut the square off from the rest of the city centre. This was partially corrected in 1989 when the square was given a new lease of life, with a footbridge linking Paradise Forum being built.

The square has been the subject of several different proposals since 1918. The first of which was refused by the government as being ‘too ambitious for a provincial town’, as it included a formal garden, new cathedral, municipal offices and exhibition halls among others.

This wasn’t the last time the government stepped in when we were apparently ‘too ambitious’.

A more modest proposal was later adopted, and even that had only a fraction of it already built including Baskerville House and Hall of Memory, both listed buildings standing there to this day.

The square was given the name Centenary in 1989 to commemorate 100 years since Birmingham was granted city status.

Brand new paving was created by Tess Jaray made to look like a brick carpet and a new fountain called ‘The Spirit Of Enterprise’ was created by Tom Lomax, both of which have now been removed.

Ironically, it wasn’t until the completion of the new Library of Birmingham in 2013 when the ‘brick carpet’ by Tess Jaray could be properly appreciated from the Library’s terrace.

2019 - The New Design

Hall of Columns

The design of the square is unlike any other. The most distinctive and radical feature is the ‘Hall of Columns’, which is a grid of 43 slender columns, each 25 metres tall and poke above the Library terrace level.

Thanks to the columns the square has a three-dimensional feel, to sit within a defined area with a light granite surface and have point lights at the very tip, creating a fantastic ‘constellation of lights’ at night.

They extend to the other side of Broad Street, with one row being located on the pavement right outside HSBC and Municipal Bank, while another row is right in the middle of soon-to-be Broad Street tram corridor.

“Unity, coherence and uniqueness”

This gives the whole area a sense of unity, coherence and uniqueness, a sense of it being one great civic space for everyone to enjoy, and one that sets Birmingham apart from every other city in Britain.

Water Features and Greenery

Next to the Symphony Hall and opposite The Rep theatre, there is a large reflection pool, with three rows of water jets for children, animals and adults alike to play with in the summer.

The pool can be drained when large scale events take place on the square.  With a number of places to sit, formally or informally,  and benches acting as a security barrier, the area will become a destination in itself.

What I really love about the new square is the trees. There are lot of them!

They are arranged in groves, and these form a series of pocket parks across the square, with benches placed in or around them. Each grove is formed of a single species, bringing a unique atmosphere and colour to its part of the square.

These species include Birch, Maple, Gingko and Flowering Cherry, Plane.

The birches form a screen along the western side of the square, acting as a visual and acoustic barrier to Paradise Circus Queensway. 21 of these extend all the way towards Baskerville House.

Below, tall grasses and herbaceous perennials will be planted, creating a sort of an urban meadow, which will be illuminated at night.

A grove of fourteen Maple trees are being planted adjacent to Broad Street and the Hall of Memory. These will turn bright red in Autumn, fantastically contrasting with the twelve yellow coloured leaves of Ginkgo trees located outside The Rep Theatre, together giving the square a beautifully autumnal feel.

Perennial plants such as ferns and seasonal flowering plants will be planted beneath the maples as well as the Ginkgo trees. The Ginkgo grove will have a long continuous bench all around it and clearings inside with informal benches.

Outside of Symphony Hall will be a cherry orchard, a group of twelve mature Yoshino trees arranged within a formal grid, with a beautiful white blossom in early Spring, and green to yellow in Autumn, brilliantly contrasting with the red Maples and yellow Gingko trees.

The canopies of these Cherries will be lit during the night and three granite benches are placed beneath them.

Public Art

All the public artwork taken away and put into storage before the revamp of the square began, are set to return to the square, although some will be located elsewhere.

The ‘Golden Boys’ statue of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch, will be placed against the backdrop of the Cherry Orchard, near Symphony Hall.

The statue of King Edward VII will remain in its place, while the ‘Industry and Genius’ sculpture is going to be moved closer to the Baskerville House and made symmetrical to its entrance.

A ‘Real Birmingham Family’ statue will be relocated next to the Ginkgo trees grove.

CONCLUSION 

The number of alterations to the square, and its vicinity over the years have fragmented the square, making it tired, unattractive and illegible.

This development is a vital cog in the ongoing regeneration and resurrection of Birmingham as a major international centre of culture, which fits with the Big City Plan.

The square will become the centrepiece of the Westside district of the city centre and become a public space of international significance, capable of hosting large events.

But not only that, people will come to the square and be attracted with the cultural offerings within the area. It’ll become a place to meet, socialise and stay, rather than merely pass through.

Tomas Grunt

 

All the following artist impressions are courtesy of Graeme Massie Architects


Graeme Massie Architects


Graeme Massie Architects


Graeme Massie Architects


Graeme Massie Architects


Graeme Massie Architects

 

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100 passion points
Construction & regeneration
02 Jun 2019 - Daniel Sturley
Gallery

The Construction of Two Chamberlain Square - June 2019

The main progress on Two Chamberlain Square is the addition of the cladding to the front colonnade, not long till the re-opening of Chamberlain Square now!

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The Construction of Two Chamberlain Square - June 2019





The main progress on Two Chamberlain Square is the addition of the cladding to the front colonnade, not long till the re-opening of Chamberlain Square now!


The test rig for the external cladding and windows for Two Chamberlain Square.

Photos by Daniel Sturley

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90 passion points
Transport
02 Jun 2019 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

West Midlands Metro tram 19: celebrating 20 years of the Midland Metro (1999 - 2019)

On the 30th May 1999 Midland Metro line 1 opened from Wolverhampton St Georges' to Birmingham Snow Hill. On the 30th May 2019, West Midlands Metro celebrated their 20 birthday by unveiling a new livery for tram 19. I finally saw it at Grand Central Tram Stop on Sunday 2nd June 2019 (was hoping to see it a few days earlier but kept missing it).

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West Midlands Metro tram 19: celebrating 20 years of the Midland Metro (1999 - 2019)





On the 30th May 1999 Midland Metro line 1 opened from Wolverhampton St Georges' to Birmingham Snow Hill. On the 30th May 2019, West Midlands Metro celebrated their 20 birthday by unveiling a new livery for tram 19. I finally saw it at Grand Central Tram Stop on Sunday 2nd June 2019 (was hoping to see it a few days earlier but kept missing it).


It has been 20 years since the original Midland Metro line from Wolverhampton St George's to Birmingham Snow Hill first opened to the public on the 30th May 1999. Although the first extension to Birmingham New Street Station only opened by 2016, and other proposed lines have yet to be built (hopefully the line to Dudley will get built soon). The next extension to Centenary Square is well under way, and hopefully that will open at the end of 2019? (with the next extension to the Hagley Road proposed to open by about 2021).

To celebrate the 20th birthday of the Midland Metro (now the West Midlands Metro), Urbos 3 tram 19 has been given a new livery with blue ends, and sections at the top celebrating the 20 years of the Metro!

I first spotted it as I was passing through Birmingham New Street Station. I quickly headed out onto Stephenson Street to get my photos of it before it departed for Wolverhampton!

The standard shot from the current end of the line. A taxi is seen waiting for a barrier to be lifted (to let it through).

1999 - 2019 - 20 Years.

West Midlands Metro's trams are scheduled to travel nearly 2 million km per year, which is enough to go around the Earth 48 times!

Celebrating 20 years. More detail of the fact above.

They have photos of tram 31 on the side. That was the first tram to get the blue livery treatment! Also a more bigger 1999 - 2019 - 20 Years sign. This near the section where the tram bends round the corner.

The first 23 tram stops opened between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton St George's on the 30th May 1999. The first extension opened between 2015 and 2016. So at least 17 years later. There is also a new loop being built at the Wolverhampton end now, which will link Wolverhampton Station to the tram network!

Tram 19 near the front of the tram. A few minutes after arriving, I would see it depart by moving onto the left tracks bound for Wolverhampton! The colours kind of remind me of West Bromwich Albion. Also the livery was done at the depot in Wednesbury.

The other standard Urbos 3 tram view at Grand Central Tram Stop near Birmingham New Street Station. Tram 19 on it's short wait at Grand Central before departing for Wolverhampton and the Black Country. Hopefully by the time the next extension opens, the other platform will be brought back into use. Also one of the platforms at Corporation Street Tram Stop is still yet to get shelters installed (which would be on the side to catch a tram to Centenary Square in the future).

Photos taken by Elliott Brown

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown (over 1000 followers!).

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60 passion points
Construction & regeneration
02 Jun 2019 - Daniel Sturley
Gallery

Birmingham, a Crane Dismantles its Sibling at Three Arena Central - May 2019

Managed to grab a few shots of the dismantling of the main crane at Three Arena Central (HMRC Midlands) by its sibling, some crazy danger money being earnt (we hope!). Bonus crane photo in this post too!

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Birmingham, a Crane Dismantles its Sibling at Three Arena Central - May 2019





Managed to grab a few shots of the dismantling of the main crane at Three Arena Central (HMRC Midlands) by its sibling, some crazy danger money being earnt (we hope!). Bonus crane photo in this post too!


Photos by Daniel Sturley

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70 passion points
Construction & regeneration
29 May 2019 - Daniel Sturley
Gallery

The Construction of Bank Tower Two - May 2019

Bank Tower Two is having the last of the cladding installed and we look forward to the removal of the external lifts to get the full effect.

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The Construction of Bank Tower Two - May 2019





Bank Tower Two is having the last of the cladding installed and we look forward to the removal of the external lifts to get the full effect.


Photos by Daniel Sturley

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70 passion points

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