The Emporium

Unearthing and celebrating 250 years of industrial heritage through creation of unique homes for students

Client

Czero

Location

City Centre, Birmingham

Role

Conservation Consultant

RIBA Work Stage

1-5

The Grade II Listed former Christopher Wray lighting buildings were in danger of dereliction until Czero took on the site. A new residential tower for students has been built next to them to bridge the conservation deficit. APEC was first involved in the scheme back in 2012 assisting the client in developing the conservation strategy and securing planning consent. During the construction phase, we provided detailed conservation input.

What started as a domestic terrace in the mid 18th Century, became a blend of 19th Century workshops, including metal-stamping, light making and ginger beer making. The evolution of the site reflects Birmingham’s industrial development as a city. From 2005, the Grade II listed building sat vacant and exposed to the elements; causing a significant amount of damage. Czero became involved with the site and was determined to find a way to make conversion of the buildings viable. Plans were drawn up by IDP for a student residential tower to sit alongside the listed buildings. The Victorian workshops to the rear of the site were incorporated within the designs to provide residential and recreation spaces for students. We worked with the team in the detailed execution of the conversion of these listed buildings.

History is being revealed and is being made legible for the first time here. But the buildings are not being restored to a previous state. What is being done is the addition of another layer in the buildings' complex 250-year history, but grafting it on, intelligently and creatively, to previous layers, making a unique architectural document in the process.

Joe HolyoakBirmingham Post, Thursday 15 August 2019

The next phase of the project will be to convert the Georgian Houses at the front of the site into shared student housing. These houses front what remains of Bartholomew Row and are probably the oldest surviving examples from this period in the city centre. They have been altered repeatedly across the centuries to suit different uses, and a great deal of research has been required to identify which elements to keep and restore, and which to remove. In the first phase, the exterior of the building was restored and made watertight. Through a careful process of research and site investigations, historic delights have come to light and are being designed into the next stage of creating unique student homes.

 

If you would like to see more about the project, visit Saving Bartholomew Row.

It is an exemplary development, and I hope that its lessons can be learned by others.

Joe HolyoakBirmingham Post, Thursday 15 August 2019