The Emporium Student Accommodation, Birmingham
Winner of Best Heritage Scheme in the West Midlands RICS Social Impact Awards 2020.
IDP were commissioned to restore and bring back into use seven Listed Buildings with a long and complex history. Originally, seven individual buildings they have been insensitively altered over the years to combine them into one amalgamated building, leading to complex levels, walkways, and access bridges, which have themselves become part of the building’s identity. These buildings were most recently used as the Christopher Wray Lighting Factory, Emporium and offices, and for use as student accommodation.
The historic significance of the site has been retained, with a new high standard building being constructed, seamlessly blending with the historic buildings, reflecting the evolvement of the site.
The client was incredibly passionate about the restoration of these buildings and accepting of their quirks and the stories they had to tell. IDP was meticulous in carrying through this historic identity within our new plans. It was of course a key consideration in our designs and as such we created characterful duplex and split-level units, with open vaulted ceilings and rooflights looking up to a fully restored, beautiful lantern rooflight.
The existing buildings housed a myriad of different rooms and spaces including a number of quirky studio units, this of course made the project an exciting challenge.
We negotiated a large open common room, games room and multiple work rooms, a Ruinpub in the basement and separate office accommodation housed in the oldest buildings on site. The size, shape and accessibility of the existing spaces largely informed the design, but the multiple levels throughout the buildings created challenges in accessibility, as did the quirky staircases leading to the apartments, a contemporary glazed link bridge, and contemporary glazed roof extensions.
Our designs ensured that the significant tower, that framed the existing buildings (as viewed from the park and the street) and which sits in scale with the adjacent Masshouse development and nearby other student accommodation schemes, was sensitively incorporated. The tower further continues on the Bartholomew Row elevation at 3 storeys in height, with a step back to the full height of 14 storeys so was extremely prominent.
Our solution was to incorporate a clever use of materials and colour palette all designed to reflect the context. Beautifully the deep reds and browns of the brick buildings are reflected in the copper and metallic finish employed; giving a wonderful contrast, feel and texture – finished perfectly with the gold of the inset cladding panels.
Providing an acceptable solution to the tower element was a tough challenge, our designs were presented to the planners for feedback throughout the pre-application process, and also again to the local conservation and heritage panel. The existing Grade II buildings were treated with the utmost respect throughout the process, achieved in design of new spaces to suit the existing identity and with minimal interventions. We also appointing a specialist structural engineer and ensured continuous liaison with the conservation officer in Birmingham City Council to get the best result possible.