Super station for super september
September is turning out to be the best month in Birmingham's annual calendar with September 2003 seeing the opening of the redeveloped Bullring, September 2013 seeing opening of the new Library of Birmingham and now September 2015 seeing the opening of the redeveloped New Street Station.
After New Street Station opened on Sunday 20 September, today sees the opening of the accompanying Grand Central shopping centre with anchor store John Lewis in what has been titled Super September. This weekend the Style Birmingham fashion event, Rugby World Cup matches at Aston Villa football ground and the Birmingham Weekender series of arts events, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/september-shout-out-for-birmingham.html, will close off a super September but be the start of something exciting for Birmingham as it's undeniable ambition and drive is captured both in building and spirit.
I have followed the project to redevelop the station over the past seven years on this blog and for years before as I saw a succession of attempts to redevelop the station. The finished design was the fourth in a series of ideas to redevelop the station, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/new-street-project-blown-away-by-design.html, but
In December 2009 I reported on the reserved matters planning application which revealed both the complexity of the redevelopment but of the ambition it had in transforming the station, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/shiny-station-plans-submitted.html
The following photos attempt to show the station, which freelance photographer Jas Sansi sums up well in displaying touches of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in it's arches and cathedral like space, https://jassansi.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/736/. It would not be surprising to see Barcelona, so often looked to as an example of great city planning, http://www.citylab.com/design/2012/11/6-ideas-every-city-should-steal-barcelona/3998/, visit Birmingham to see how we have transformed the station especially in considering Barcelona-Sants station - itself reminiscent of the 1960s New Street.
Jas Sansi has also summed up perfectly the difficulty in capturing the space. It is a space that is best experienced and one that cannot be appreciated looking at the many thousands of pictures that have been taken of it and in it since it opened.
To see the archways of the atrium, you must first step into that space. You cannot study the interior from a passive distance. Proximity makes it a challenging space to photograph at ground level. I used both a wide angle and an all encompassing fish eye lens. The inability to step back prevents the framing of the entire picture. If you step back, you find yourself again in the low ceilinged corridor space.
There are very few buildings like this and its a clever design detail. To understand the space, you have to be here. All the social media snaps and selfies in the world offer a glimpse but no more. You have to get up, come into the city centre and see this building in person to comprehend it. Scanning your finger across a smart phone or tablet to reveal images offer you little. And that’s difficult for a photographer to admit.
The station's vast open spaces and multiple entrances make the station porous. The station now acts as a heart that supplies the surrounding streets with thoroughfares and cut throughs, chances to stop, meet and explore. This is intentional in a design that visibly reflects the movement of the city around it and the passing of trains, previously hidden in tunnels, and pedestrians through it on the shiny steel cladding. Like a heart it will pump the people of the city throughout the surrounding areas where previously they were discouraged or unable to reach.
It is fitting that like the Library of Birmingham the new station captures what the city is - a city of people will be as much a transport interchange as a meeting point - it's not surprising Grand Central has used We'll Meet at Grand Central in it's advertising for the new shopping centre.
The following photos were taken on my first visit on Monday 21 September.
The following images, reproduced from the Grand Central website http://www.grandcentralbirmingham.com/, show retailers and restaurants opening at Grand Central and a plan of the new shopping centre.
The Metro advertising cover sheet for the new John Lewis on Wednesday 23 September.