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 proposal maximises the retention of historic fabric, which was a key requirement of the Council’s Conservation Officer and Heritage England. In order to do that, around 5,600m2 of new building needs 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 site. This is absolutely vital to make the scheme possible, as without this the buildable footprint is a 40m x 10m strip that cannot accommodate a building high enough, and would require loss of part of the more important listed building.
View more high resolution artist impression images of The Emporium from various viewpoints here.
The four remaining houses along Bartholomew Row will be repaired and restored essentially in the currently plan form and converted into a pair of ‘townhouse-style’ offices. Such a use minimises the degree of intervention in terms of needing to put in bathrooms etc. The courtyard to the rear of the houses will be opened up so the houses can be properly ‘read’.
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 Tower will include 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….
The Duplex Apartments
The well-preserved workshops on the north side of the site infront of the brise soleil of University House will be converted into four fantastic duplex apartment. Each of these will have south facing windows, exposed roof trusses, and a loft-living feel.
The Courtyard will provide the entrance space and all the shared services for the Emporium, including reception, access to the residential accommodation, laundry, bike stores, and office space for the management team. This space will make the most of the existing spaces available, with some of the ground floor walls cut way to open the spaces up. Access from Fox Street through the big carriageway arched doors, this will be a unique and spectacular entrance to the student elements of the Emporium.
Central Workshops and Malthouse
The rest of the spaces on the first and second floors of the central workshops will provide amenity spaces for the residents of the Emporium, making this the best student accommodation facility anywhere in Birmingham. There will be a cinema, gym, common rooms, private work rooms, lounges and a games room. And all of this within a two minute walk of Eastside City Park and BCU students’ favourite pub – The Woodman.
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.
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.