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Yep
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Probably jumping the gun a little on this, but I thought it was worth creating a thread. Submissions for the design competition for this 500,000 sq.ft project are due in on may 10th, and a final winner should be announced on the 31st, and open to public viewing thereafter. I'm looking forward to this - Mailbox director Alan Chatham is talking up this project, saying they want to get something special - for birmingham as well as the mailbox.

The site...

Canalside





Commercial Street frontages
(hopefully these can be retained)



 

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Brummie Angeleno
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I love those Norman arch windows and the top fascia. I'd like to see this repeated on the canalside with about 10 floors. This looks quite Venetian and it would work the other side too.
 

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Kebab Licker
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Yep I hope they manage to keep some of the facade of that - looks nice. You can't build that sort of stuff these days at any price - you can tell it's old. It's important to keep this sort of thing for the future.

I'm looking forward to seeing what we get here as well though. I'm guessing that, if we see all the design entries, we're not gonna agree with the one that gets built.
 

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well this has come out the blue for me, i thought the Mailbox was complete, let alone a possible further 500,000 sq ft extension. Sounds like we could be in for somthing special here. the footprint ain't that big and i can't seeing being one big box so maybe something of decent height included in the plans.

I wonder if the bullring has had a effect on this and the news on Martineu Galleries, i would have thought it was a time to consolidate the retail sector but its seems to be the opposite.
 

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Brummie Angeleno
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Brief encounters

May 4 2005

Terry Grimley sits in on rival architects' bids for the final phase of Birmingham's Mailbox...

A 28-storey tower hovering over the canal, a gigantic cube excavated to create a skewed atrium and a romantic collision of new and historic structures are among the ideas put forward for the final phase of Birmingham's Mailbox development. Over two days, six invited architectural practices have pitched their initial thoughts on how to complete and complement the Mailbox by delivering an outstanding mixed development on a prime city centre canalside frontage.

The six contenders - leading London practices Make and Marks Barfield, plus local pacesetters Associated Architects, Glenn Howells Architects, Kinetic and D5 - have been given considerable freedom by Mailbox owners Birmingham Development Company in how they approach the development of the site. It is bounded to north and south by the canal and Commercial Street, to the east by the existing Mailbox and to the west by the Washington Wharf residential development. Most of the schemes would deliver around 250,000 sq ft of development incorporating a small top-oftherange hotel, retail, offices and apartments. It was not until the final presentation - by Kinetic - that a scheme surfaced which proposed an additional use: a media centre designed to take advantage of the BBC's presence in The Mailbox to stimulate the local broadcast industry. As it turned out, this did not come as a total surprise to the developers, who had considered including just such a facility in the original brief.

One of the basic questions was whether some of the existing buildings on the site, which date from the 1850s and circa 1900, should be retained complete or in part. Oddly enough, all three proposals submitted on day one opted for clearing the site and starting from scratch, while all those on day two kept at least part of the buildings. The most complete retention was proposed by Marks Barfield, who began from the simple premise that the buildings were worth keeping and went on to build alongside them. Kinetic went for a severe form of facadism, proposing to keep only the Commercial Street facades as a free-standing screen to the new development. Perhaps the most thoughtprovoking approach to retention, however, came from D5, whose scheme envisaged new and old structures penetrating each other. Their presentation was more firmly rooted than any of the others in the history of the site, a former Victorian foundry. This inspired an ambitious analogy between the casting process and the potential sequence of architectural solids and voids which was difficult to grasp despite an impressive drawing. Yet there seemed to be something potentially rich and romantic in their radical approach to conservation - and some precedents do exist elsewhere in Europe. Perhaps the other extreme was represented by Make. A recent breakaway from Foster Associates, this practice can refer to such prestigious former projects as the Reichstag, the Great Court at the British Library and the Swiss Re building - alias The Gherkin. Its proposal for the Mailbox is similarly iconic: a giant cube with a corkscrewing atrium lined with balconied apartments. Undoubtedly dramatic and potentially spectacular, it left questions to be answered not only about materials but context: would going for this option be a bit like buying a cube off the peg? Again, there was a sharp contrast in approach from Glenn Howells. While the other contenders used laptops, paper or a combination of the two for their presentations, he surprised everyone by turning up with a large model. His scheme, which proposed a tower 28 storeys high placed at the water's edge and an open space covered by a glazed canopy, was approached as a kind of threedimensional jigsaw, thought through on-site.

As architects of the existing phases of The Mailbox, Associated Architects came to the competition from a unique position and, some might feel, at a disadvantage. After all, it might seem anticlimactic to reappoint the same architects after going through this elaborate process. They took the opportunity to put forward ideas from two of the practice's younger members which, in their notional form, seemed to break new ground for AA - large faceted blocks set diagonally to the canal and the enclosing buildings, both of which are earlier work by this practice.

All of the architects had looked at the complex issue of pedestrian movement through this multi-level site, and all but one (Marks Barfield, who did raise the idea, but more tentatively) were keen to put a second footbridge across the canal from their development, linking into the Holliday Wharf development now being built. The pitches were made to Birmingham Development Company directors Alan Chatham, Mark Billingham and Neil Edginton, with quantity surveyor Kevin Hole of Faithful & Gould on hand to keep a close eye on the deliverability of each proposal. All of them appeared to be well within the bounds of feasibility, though specific aspects of some schemes were likely to send costs up significantly. While starting from a determination to deliver something of lasting quality for the city, the developers are acutely aware that the right balance needs to be struck between value and cost. "My hope for a retention scheme was that you knew you had a lower value, but you also knew you had a lower cost," Alan Chatham explained, adding that something to avoid is a scheme which combines low value with high cost. "I have always believed that we should only knock down the existing buildings to replace them with something of equal or better quality. If we don't believe we're doing that we shouldn't knock them down." On the other hand, a tall tower of the kind proposed by Glenn Howells was seen as an aspirational idea - but possibly difficult to deliver, as the economics of towers start to become problematic at around 14-15 storeys. None of the proposals was without interest or merit, and all will undergo further development until a winner is selected following a final presentation next week. The general feeling was that running a competition with such a wide-open brief had been a valuable experiment, wth Neil Edington pointing to the enthusiasm with which the architects had responded. "If we had been too proscriptive in our brief I don't think we would have had the variety we've had," Mark Billingham commented. "And I think it's good fun," Alan Chatham added. "I think it's really good that the schemes have been so different, because it's difficult to think of areas where we could cherry-pick ideas." A final decison is expected to be announced on May 31, and an exhibition on the proposals will be held as part of National Architecture Week (June 17 -26).
 

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You have beaten me to it MSP, I was just about to post this.

Does sound very encouraging, glad i'm not making the decision. :)
 

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Brummie Angeleno
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sorry Foxtrot! I saw it in yesterday's Post but they never update the website till much later. BTW I've got a letter in the Post again - I'm ranting about the on-road parking! Sound like an old git!
 

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Brummie Angeleno
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I think they should choose Glen Howells based on the effort of the presentation. A model is always an impressive way to get schemes across. Oh yeah - it's the 28 storey tower too!
 

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i wonder if they will be put on publ;ic display at all...... im really hoping the public will get to vote.

im interested no know why he things a tower becomes uneconomical above 15 floors.

but hey depending on what the tower is used for it could be anywhere in the ehight of 84m to 118m
 

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Likes the sound of that article, hopefully we can see all of the plans. I think a tower here would be nice but 28 storeys might be a bit much, i don't like tall buildings next to canals so would not mind not seeing one here but you have to see the plans first to make any real judgement.

Roll on May 31st!!
 

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woodhousen said:
i wonder if they will be put on publ;ic display at all...... im really hoping the public will get to vote.

im interested no know why he things a tower becomes uneconomical above 15 floors.

but hey depending on what the tower is used for it could be anywhere in the ehight of 84m to 118m
There won't be a public vote but the proposals are going to be displayed in one of the empty units opposite Thomas Pink as part of Architecture Week (June 17 - 26)
 
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