Ainsley Gommon staff enjoyed perfect spring weather for their annual away day on Friday 18th May 2018. Birmingham was the chosen venue to look at recent architecture, landscape and infrastructure projects and it proved to be a good choice with some excellent and inspirational projects to visit.
The two offices met up in the former New Street station, now transformed into “Grand Central”, where the newly created atrium space provides a far more inviting point of arrival into the city although the external mirrored facades generated some interesting architectural debate amongst our team. Overall, the transformation was thought to be very successful and a clever adaptation of the formerly un-loved building. After walking through the Bullring and past the iconic Rotunda, Selfridges store (Future Systems) and Spiral Café (Marks Barfield), which still looks fresh after many years, we arrived at Eastside City Park, where the Patel Taylor designed landscape provides a fine setting for the buildings of Millennium Point (Nicholas Grimshaw). The landscape uses strong blocks of planting and avenues of birch trees and scots pines to define the spaces and to create structure. This area is due to undergo further dramatic transformations if the projected HS2 station is built alongside the historic Curzon Street railway station, the fine classical original terminal building of which is still awaiting refurbishment. A short walk back into the city centre took us past many busy construction sites where very substantial blocks of apartments are being built. This was followed by a tram ride out to the Jewellery Quarter, which allowed us to walk back towards the city past the many specialist craft workshops that gave the area its name. This brought us to the rear of the recently completed Central Library complex (Mechanoo).
The library building, with its colourful and intricate facades has become a real landmark for the city. The impressive interior spaces make a great cultural hub for the city while the beautifully maintained landscapes of the roof terraces provide wonderful vantage points and oases of peace to overlook the city and to soak up the sunshine. These provides a great viewpoint to look at the ongoing hard and soft landscape projects that will provide a setting for the extended tramway line that is under construction.
From the library, it is only a short walk down to the bustling canal side of Brindley Place, where the locals were taking maximum advantage of the weather to enjoy the outdoor spaces in the city. A lunch stop was made alongside Gas Street basin at the end of the Worcester and Birmingham canal.
After lunch, a stroll along the towpath brought us to The Cube (Ken Shuttleworth / MAKE Architecture). This very bold building is another city landmark which generated some very lively discussion about the architectural language of the building and about the interior space formed as a light-well in the core of the block. From the Cube, it is only a short walk through the Mailbox development and up to the grand civic space in front of the city hall where the day concluded with evening drinks before getting our respective trains home.