For former Foreign Office Architects co-founder Alejandro Zaera-Polo, the brief posed an interesting challenge: “It had to be a façade that was purely designed from the outside,” he said. “We couldn’t use the inside of the building as a driver for the design, so we decided to make it an embodiment of the flows that go through it. Information, trains, people, clouds – everything that moves is somehow embedded into the façade.” This was of interest to Alejandro as his own research had, for a long time, focused on the architectural “envelope” as a site of experimentation.
Paul Dalton, Senior Project Manager at consultancy and construction company Mace, stated at the time “The aim of the project was to create an inviting building that was fit for the UK’s second city and would be somewhere that residents would be proud of. It was also important that the new design could accommodate future growth in passenger numbers.
With daily footfall anticipated at over 170,000, the client team realised that the choice of hard landscaping materials needed to suit the high demands whilst also complementing the architectural aesthetics.
Working alongside Atkins, Hardscape supplied durable, hard-wearing Chinese granites for the project, including Kobra, Crystal Black and Royal White paving, setts and steps and bespoke Kobra planters and benches with stainless-steel anti-skate attachments. This contrast of colours was selected to complement the mirrored cladding used around the entrance areas to the station.
The eye-catching shiny steel façade that wraps around the station’s existing concrete frame is by far the stand-out feature, along with a new atrium. It has grabbed much media attention as a love-it-or-hate-it piece of architectural marmite. The Kobra granite benches with the stainless-steel anti-skate features also make quite an impression.
A positive result
Following a five-year redevelopment programme costing £750million, the new station design includes a new atrium, improved entrances and platforms, and a new 450,000 square ft Grand Central shopping hub, which attracts more than 50 million visitors each year.
- 60% of the rainwater harvested from the façade is used to flush all the toilets in the station.
- 5,000 tonnes of concrete were removed from the old NCP car park to create the first half of the new concourse.
- Birmingham New Street is the busiest station outside London, and the busiest interchange station in the UK with a train leaving the station every 37 seconds.