Project in Detail
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom
World Architecture Festival 2008 - Shortlisted
Fort Dunlop is an example of how close working client, architect + builder relationships can transform a derelict, forgotten building and re-invent an area of the city. This has been achieved through a speculative and flexible approach to use, budget and final occupation, whilst preserving the existing fabric and rigorously enforcing a series of bold, strong, design principles.
Since 1999 the architect and developer have worked in partnership to bring the derelict storage warehouse back to life and in 2003 a financially viable proposal was agreed, with the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, for speculative office use. However, this brief and associated planning consent also allowed for adaption to contain residential, hotel and mixed retail use dependent on market interest.
The existing building (designed by Sidney Stott and W W Gibbings) was built in the early 1920's as a tyre store for the neighbouring factories but had been derelict since the 1980's. The structure's depth of 52m and 5m column grid made the task of adaption to a new use problematic. Many developers had proposed ideas but none were advanced beyond concept design. The delivered solution was to develop a few simple design moves, which enhance the existing structure through an approach of discerning conservation and clearly express the new insertions that transform the building's appearance and use.
1 • A 'central circulation space' is created with a new 'through route' to the public ground floor and a visual
link to every upper floor of the building. All landscape is planned from this route, including a new
roadside layby for public transport, green setting around the building and defined parking enclosure for
2 • A central 'blue spine' of fire-fighting cores and service risers open-up the internal floor plates. This is
expressed above the roof line (screening plant) and is also extended to create a 100 bedroom hotel
(which could not be efficiently planned within the 52m deep existing floor plates but was considered
vital for 24 hour use of the site). The top of the 'blue spine' also creates a rooftop urban promenade - a
democratic gesture within a 300,000 sq ft speculative office development but a place for tenants to
enjoy free time, above the industrial environment that surrounds the site.
3 • A new 'glass box' is set behind the existing facades and is expressed as a section through the re-
invented building on the east elevation. This brings depth to the preserved brick and concrete elevations
whilst creating a service zone to house all office ventilation requirements, without the need for unsightly
plant visible on the 'locally Listed' elevations. It also allowed mixed-use consent escape distances to be
accommodated with a minimum introduction of four new fire-fighting cores. Externally a covered
colonnade is created at ground floor together with ability to enforce a strong signage strategy to the
45,000 sq ft retail units, respectful of the overall building identity.
4 • A new 'roof structure' creates a penthouse level of accommodation where demolition of the existing roof
was necessary. This new structure has been designed to allow a more flexible clear span floor plate, not
constrained by the existing column grid, whilst also creating one of the country's largest green roofs, as
a habitat for the wildlife which had inhabited the building/site since it fell into decline.
Every architectural insertion has respected the existing building with clear, bold moves of an industrial scale and materiality. All office floors have retained the beauty of the existing steel encased concrete columns and soffits, accommodating all servicing within raised floors. All cores and walls have been inserted as clear elements within the existing feature beam lines.
The first site works commenced in Spring 2004 and the hotel started trading Spring 2006. The first office tenants traded in Autumn 2006 and, by early 2008, the building was complete. The team has worked from an ambitious initial budget of £31.1m (Design + Build shell and hotel) to incorporate a series of deferred works/enhancements of £1.5m, as developer confidence in the speculative market grew, and has completed fit-out works with a value of £18.7m (Management Contract). In total this £51.3m re-invention has taken three and a half years to build and occupy, with a team working to an unfrozen brief, complex market-driven variations and with phased occupation of areas. Through strong client, architect and builder relationships, a persistence in design principles has been maintained to create a successful speculative development that is 97% let two years earlier than anticipated by the developer.
Client / Developer
Mr Nathan Cornish
0121 747 8000
Simon Fenton Partnership
Mr Guy Jackson
Urban Splash BUILD
0121 747 8000
Bespoke GRP furniture
Mr Mark Went
+44 (0)141 404 9000
Green roof -single ply membrane with sedum blanket
Mr John Wilkinson
+44 (0)1473 257671
Structural frameless glazing
Mr John Harvey
Through-coloured, insulated render
Mr John Collings