Archive for July 13, 2009

A major station redevelopment project

Author: Cyril Richert

Clapham Junction vs Birmingham Station

Clapham Junction Station nowadays

Each day about 2,000 trains, most stopping, pass through the station, more than through any other station in Europe. At peak times 180 trains with about 135,000 passengers per hour pass through of which 65% stop. Interchanges make some 40% of the activity and by that count too it is the busiest station in the United Kingdom. Over the year, about 22 million passengers use Clapham Junction Station, i.e. 60,000 a day and TfL estimates to 10,000 users between 7am and 10 am only. The station has 17 platforms (platform 1 should welcome the tube by 2012) and is managed (franchise) by South West Trains on behalf of Network Rail. Clapham Junction station is often described as a utter disgrace, dangerous and users consider consider refurbishing the station as the most important priority.

Birmingham Station nowadays

Birmingham New Street is a name of one of the busiest railway stations in the UK outside London with about 35 million passengers a year. The railway station is formed by 13 platforms and also The Pallasades Centre next to the station. The station is managed by Network Rail. New Street is frequently derided as one of the most run down and unwelcoming of all the major stations on the British railway network.

But all similarities stop here: Clapham Junction Station has be left aside in the latest financing perspective for Network Rail to 2014, while Birmingham enjoys a £600 million project redevelopment, focused on the railway station.

Birmingham Station redevelopment


On 12 February 2009, the government announced that the Department for Transport will be providing £160 million on top of the £128 million that is to be provided through a government White Paper named Delivering a Sustainable Railway.  A further £100 million will be provided by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and will be channelled through the regional development agency (Advantage West Midlands). The announcement brought the total amount of Government spending on the project to £388 million as it agreed to meet all the funding grants sought by the different stakeholders, including Birmingham City Council and Network Rail. It is believed to approach £600 million with additional investment from private sector.

Design competition


The submitted projects were received by the end of January 2008 and a short list of 6 architects was announced in February 2008. It included Foreign Office Architects and Rafael Viñoly Architects along with CRAB Studio, IDOM UK, LAB architecture studio and UN Studio from 47 entries from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US.

The subject of the competition was described such as:

Expressions of Interest are invited for the appointment of a Concept Designer to develop the overarching vision for the building envelope and atrium roof that will define the external form to the £550m redevelopment of New Street Station, Birmingham. Its design will need to act as the catalyst for the transformation of the station, such that it is seen as more than just a functional entity, but becomes an integral part of the city and reflects the aspirations of modern day Birmingham. The Concept Designer will also be responsible for the building’s integration with the surrounding area, generating ideas for the station’s new central atrium roof, since it is likely to be surrounded by tall buildings, as well as informing the brief for new public spaces and possible art works associated with the redevelopment.

A provisional sum of £30m (Q2 2005 prices) has been allocated for the atrium space and external façade works. Although the external envelope may help to inform the interior, the detailed reconfiguration of the station, its organisational structure and operation has been the subject of a previous contract. The Concept Designer will be required to develop their vision in conjunction with an Integrated Project Team that will primarily comprise Network Rail, a Delivery Partner and a Lead Consultant. The Lead Consultant will be an engineering led company.


The selection process is open to registered architects / designers. Candidates will need to demonstrate their ability to lead the design vision for the redevelopment of a major UK railway station. The successful candidate will need to be capable of producing (within the specified budget) an exceptional and functional design that will portray the dynamic, international character of modern day Birmingham. The Expressions of Interest will be assessed on the basis of the design / architectural practice. However, teams going through to the second stage may wish to include other appropriate professionals/consultants amongst their members, which might include a structural engineer, lighting engineer etc.

Artist view of New street stationThe jury consisted of members from the participating organisations, Network Rail, Birmingham City Council, Advantage West Midlands and Centro, as well as Christophe Egret as RIBA architect adviser (the competition organiser). RIBA declared the name of the winner mid-2008: after over five years of preliminary planning, international design consultancy Atkins (hired to oversee the development) in collaboration with Foreign Office Architects (FOA, Alejandro Zaera-Polo winner of the competition for the design of the station) will be the joint designers of the New Street Station, to be known as the New Street Gateway.

Details of the project

The redevelopment will

  1. increase passenger capacity to 52 million a year (more than double the current users),
  2. remove a notorious congestion in the rail network,
  3. include re-modelling the platforms,
  4. construct a contemporary concourse with a 2,800m² atrium to bring in natural light,
  5. improve pedestrian links to the city centre,
  6. re-defining the image of the building using stunning architecture.

Artist view of New street station

The project will be redeveloped in two phases enabling the station to continue to operate throughout construction. This will minimise disruption for passengers and make it possible for Gateway to deliver the first half of the project by early 2011.

Birmingham council estimates the station will lead to £2bn of economic benefits.

CABE (the government’s architecture body) said:

We reiterate our support for the aspiration to enhance the existing train station, to make it a European standard interchange and to produce a coherent piece of city.  The project is complex and the constraints of the railway operations and the site are great; it is more than ‘just a railway station’ and the project demands collaboration with other partners, including the City and the retail operators who have air rights over the station.Artist view of New street station

However they cautiously highlighted some concerns related to clarity of the diagram of the building, the impact of the south entrance, the shopping centre at the expense of the experience of taking a train.

It is noticeable that the project will include also 2 towers of 30 stories, one residential and the other one for office space. However the project was mainly focused on the station redevelopment and the designer of the station was not associated with the towers. CABE is not supportive of the towers which they consider have indeterminate design but will have a huge impact on the city.

Website of the project:

July 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm 1 comment

Grant Road development

Author: Cyril Richert

Application for 2 buildings, 6 Grant RoadThe Council has just published the documents for the redevelopment of the site along Grant Road (Griffon House  & Lanner House 6 Grant Road SW11) involving demolition of existing buildings and construction of new building between 6-11 storeys to provide 452 self-contained studio rooms for use as student accommodation (for use of post-graduate students of Imperial College London) together with associated car and cycle parking, landscape treatment, amenity space, access and servicing facilities.

Documentation is available on the Council’s website (link here) and you can submit a comment using the form here, or write to the Council (addresses here with reference 2009/2279).

report has been published by Berkeley First (the specialist division within the Berkeley Group providing student accommodation and low cost housing), on the community involvement. As usual we regret that there is no greater consultation for such schemes which are going to impact more than a few hundred people. However the document holds good information, in perspective with the fact that a planning permission was already granted last year for the redevelopment of the area, and the new application has no more (rather less) footprint on the area.

The new impact on the vicinity seems more to be with the level of occupation and the specificity of residents (students rather than families and professionals). Concerns have been expressed on the parking issues (with only 6 on-site parking space, it is likely than more postgraduates will have vehicles/visitors even if Imperial College is 3 miles away from CJ). Furthermore, photo-montages and colour photos/drawings should be provided for the residents to assess the aesthetic impact on the neighbourhood (apparently a model of the proposed scheme and surrounding buildings was also on display at their exhibition).

A total of 186 invitation ‘flyers’ were sent out on 21 May to local residents, residents’ groups and civic organisations and the public exhibitions were held near the site at the Battersea Chapel on 3rd and 6th June 2009 and were attended by 4 local residents and 2 representatives of the Battersea Society.

A planning permission was approved last year for the previous owner (St James Home) to build 160 one and two bedroom apartments.

[Click on the pictures to see bigger]

Comparison of footprint1 - image from developer's report

Comparison of footprint2 - image from developer's report

Proposed area of construction

Shape of the buildings fromn above

July 13, 2009 at 11:09 am 3 comments

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