New Start for New Street

September 18th 2008 saw the eagerly awaited designs by Foreign Office Architects for New Street Station. The public sector project is the largest of three big public sector projects for Birmingham which also include a new Central Library and new Magistrates' Court.

Foreign Office Architects' design beat off competition from six other companies, Rafael Viñoly Architects, CRAB Studio, IDOM UK, LAB architecture studio and UN Studio, which were themselves picked from 47 entries.

My earlier post How to Solve a Problem like New Street Station? The History of New Street provides some of the backstory to the evolution of the station.

The winning design is by Spanish architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo who has spoken of his desire to “provide the community with a legacy that reflects the quality, spirit, ambition and commitment of a city that wants to become an international centre” (

Mr Zaera-Polo confessed that when he first saw New Street’s “dark and claustrophobic” appearance he understood why the station had become such an embarrassment to so many people. He added: “This new, modern gateway will not just be another interesting building.

Following the announcement the concept designs will now be developed by a team including Foreign Office Architects, WS Atkins (Lead Consultant) and Mace (Delivery Partner). The team will be led by Network Rail. Transport Design Consultancy who bid in july as part of a consortium with architect Chapman Taylor is currently pitching to design a new pedestrian walkway between New Street and and the adjacent Moor Street which should support the project and connect to neighbouring Moor Street Station (

The designs show the new station covered in reflective sheets of carefully crafted and finished metal while incorporating three high technology digital displays to make the entrances clear and easy to find.

The £600m project will add a new concourse three times larger than the current concourse and include an airy light filled atrium with better links through the station with eight new entrances plus 42 new escalators and 14 new lifts to the platforms (

The designs have already raised concerns from critics who question the success of the £600m scheme. Sir Bernard Zissman, who was chairman of the judging panel appointed to recruit an architect for the station, and who chaired the council economic development committee during the planning stages of the ICC, said the arguments were similar to those who questioned the decision to create the ICC. He noted critics who said 'who on earth would come to Birmingham for events and meetings? Well, they do come and Symphony Hall is the envy of the world (

“We liked Foreign Office Architect’s approach to developing pedestrian flows across the centre of the city, from north to south and from east to west. We liked their design which will result in a reflection of Birmingham’s sky – with the clouds, the reflection of the trains and the reflection of the people, by day as well as by night.

"We thought they shared our vision and understanding about what New Street was all about. Stations need today to be more than an interchange for trains – essential as that is – they need to be at the hub of the city life, a place to meet and greet, to eat and drink, to enjoy and experience.”


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