The Scheme - The EmporiumThe future of Bartholomew Row and the Christopher Wray factory
Introducing The Emporium
The Emporium takes forward three centuries of changing use for the buildings between Bartholomew Row and Fox Street, with a mix of uses that suit the environment around them.
The development maximises the retention of historic fabric, which was a key requirement of the Council’s Conservation Officer and Historic England. In order to do that, around 5,600m2 of new building needed to be accommodated on just 560m2 of footprint, while respecting the height of the existing buildings, and the delicate Malt House roof.
Various options were explored, but the final design solution which achieved all the goals best was to have what is essentially a pair of buildings, one three storey to the same height as the Bartholomew Row elevation and making the corner, and then a 15 storey tower. The tower is offset at an angle away from the listed building, joined to it at the Fox Street entrance with a wedge-shaped glass link.
The footprint of the building includes a small triangle of land which sat between the linear East-West orientation of the path into the Park, and the southern wall of the original site. This was absolutely vital to make the scheme possible, as without this the buildable footprint was a 40m x 10m strip that could not accommodate a building high enough, and would have required loss of part of the more important listed building.
The four remaining houses along Bartholomew Row have been repaired and restored essentially in their original plan form and put back as two separate pairs of houses. The courtyard to the rear of the houses has been opened up so the houses can be properly ‘read’. The original proposal of turning the houses into offices is under review.
Round the corner into the Park, a new coffee shop will make the corner of Bartholomew Row and the Eastside City Park, on the space where numbers 7 and 8 Bartholomew Row once sat, and more recently Christopher Wray’s lighting showroom or “Emporium”. Further round, making the south east corner of the site, there will be a café bar / restaurant. This ground floor will be recessed a little from the podium above, with a glass frontage opening up into the park and giving the impression of shared space.
These units will add vitality to the Park, creating an ‘active frontage’ that will ultimately face and complement the active frontage of Birmingham Curzon station, across the proposed Curzon Square.
The ground floor of the tower is now a commercial unit that will be occupied by a family cafe/restaurant. This essentially sits on the spaces formerly occupied by Christopher Wray’s showroom, and the yard behind.
The Tower includes accommodation for about 175 students, all in individual rooms with private facilities, and several offering wheelchair access. Most of the rooms will have views of the Park or the city skyline. In addition to their private space, the studios will also have shared spaces and a roof terrace on the lower floors so residents can mix and socialise when their noses are not buried in their books….
Inspired by the highly popular ruinpubs of Budapest (ruinpubs.com), the lower basement and former stamp room of the Lighting Factory will be a “ruinpub” – a bar with minimal new decoration or intervention that preserves the industrial character of this space as much as possible, and which will form a home for as much of the Christopher Wray memorabilia as possible. It will be accessed from one of the large pairs of doors onto Fox Street.
Still to come.
The façade will be a reflective aluminium cladding in a copper /red colour to contrast the park and compliment the surrounding buildings. This also picks up references from the Corten steel artworks currently nearby in Eastside Park, and may one day give cues to the artist who delivers the Big Art project?
The ends will be in a contrasting colour, with a frame adding detail to the elevations.