Taking the shine off?

Work continues to progress on the redevelopment of New Street Station with the framework for the steel cladding rapidly enveloping the new John Lewis store since my last update on works from 8 March, John Lewis stations up.

While work is rapidly progressing it seems the shine has come off part of the original plans with Network Rail submitting a planning application to make amendments to the Navigation Street footbridge, 2014/02551/PA.

Minor Material Amendment attached to approval 2009/05720/PA for amendments to the western elevation, including Navigation Street footbridge, western facade and car park ramp

The planning application notes that as the stainless steel cladding above the railway requires periods when there are no trains running and because of parts of the western elevation are less visible the design specification should be reduced from the original proposals.

The changes proposed are reproduced below from the Design & Access Statement Addendum :

a. The station public entrance on Navigation Street will be retained with some minor but much needed cosmetic changes to the street-facing elevation and internal reconfigurations. 
b. The existing original footbridge structure, cladding and “kite” structures will be retained and cleaned. 
c. The new footbridge extension and three new platform stairs will be clad with powder-coated panels to match the existing footbridge and platform stair cladding. The extended section will also benefit from the installation of glazing about the platform stairs to allow natural light to flow into the bridge.

d. The building at the southern end of the footbridge extension will now become a small retail unit (A1 Use Class) providing an active frontage to Hill Street, with two ATMs; this will also accommodate a new means of escape from the footbridge, discharging directly on to Hill Street. 
e. The cladding along the vehicle ramp will be reduced to parapet level only in order to be supported entirely by the existing concrete ramp structure, negating the need for new platform level supports. This will have the added benefit of being accessed and maintained entirely from ramp overhanging the parapet as the previous cladding scheme was to be accessed from track level during position times.
f. Amendments to the Western elevation will comprise modified cladding geometry to reduce some of the over-sailing and more efficiently distribute the loads into the existing building columns, again negating the need for platform-level supports. The elevation lines have been maintained over the length of the building to ensure the continuity in architectural expression between the multiple building components as well as keeping full coverage of the West elevation. The reflections seen the in the cladding, as in the original scheme, have been studied in order to maximize views that offer reflections of the sky, the public realm and the tracks below street level. 

Images of the proposed changes against the original design are shown below, reproduced from the planning application to encourage comment.

Original proposal

Planning application proposal

Original proposal

Planning application proposal

Proposed changes on streetscape

I find these proposals a little disheartening against the exciting vision we saw in the original design but it is also a reflection on the massive scale of the project and scale of changes that have progressed so far without closure of the station.  At best the refurb and 'cleaning' of the existing footbridge compliments the glazing and non-shiny John Lewis store.  Whether, if this application is approved, visitors and future residents will wonder why they 'didn't finish' the plan is a question only hindsight and time will tell.  It is also a question of compromising design against construction which has unfortunately already raised it's head in the public discosure by architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo of his reasons for walking out on the project.  The renowned architect quit design work on the station after his disagreement with Network Rail over decision decisions made by them unilaterally and without proper analysis, http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/Rail-News/design-decisions-for-new-street-station-all-wrong    

Work on the central atrium design was now being undertaken by Haskoll with changes being to the cladding of the interior.  The proposals mused and made public in the article were fabric which with concerns over fire-resistance and linking to the arches and other elements has caused objection from Zaera-Polo but also Philip Singleton of Millennium Point and members of public who fear an ineffective and compromised design undermining the new atrium's    

His criticisms follow claims by architect Philip Singleton, chief executive of Millennium Point, that the new atrium design would resemble a 'Paul Smith suit with a Primark lining' with a 'crass and timid' restyling.

Elsewhere in planning matters John Lewis has submitted it's own application for it's signage on it's new store, 2014/02388/PA, which suggests it won't be too long before visitors to the city see the famous name from various viewpoints and also that the countdown is on for almost a year left for the new store to open.

Images of work on the exterior of the station are shown below showing the curvy exterior structure facing the Bullring shopping centre and the cladding structure on the John Lewis store and glazing to street level being installed.

16 April 2014

7 April 2014

15 March 2014

19 March 2014


Anonymous said…
I agree, it is a real shame to compromise the original plan, the proposed footbridge just doesn't flow with the new design at all, it will be an eye sore. Network Rail should leave the architecture and design to the experts! Ditto the atrium. Simon, thanks for keeping us in the loop, as always.
Paul Wild said…
I have worked on this project myself several years ago. Its a real shame about the atrium and the footbridge. The footbridge was one of the most ambitious elements and reduced the scale of the overall massing creating a much more flowing, liquid form. With regards to the atrium, replacing the column cladding with fabric sounds ridiculous. The atrium needs to give a sense of scale and solidity. It should not feel like walking into a circus marque.

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