New Garden Square

Calthorpe Estates / U + I Group PLC
New Garden Square is the redevelopment of an outdated commercial estate in Edgbaston, Birmingham. The proposed mixed-use scheme will provide office space, residential and retail set around a 'Garden Square'. The scheme was submitted as an outline planning application, which received consent in September 2017.
The site contains mature trees across the whole estate giving the appearance of a very leafy environment. Beneath the tree canopy the spaces are currently used for car parking, neglected gardens, or un-purposed spaces. There is an opportunity to treat the existing trees as an asset and to re-purpose the spaces beneath, to create an attractive series of spaces that people can use and enjoy.
High quality green spaces are integral to creating a sense of place which contributes to the quality of life to those living, working or just visiting the area. Increasingly green space is being recognised for contributing to people's health in the working environment. Recent research into 'Biophilia' demonstrates how offices with views and access to green space generates physiological responses such as increased brain activity and lower stress hormones.
The green spaces will contribute to:
  • Creating a successful mixed-use development.
  • Recognising the benefits of green space to office workers.
  • Retaining and incorporating existing elements such as trees and walls into the design.
  • Creating a Series of Gardens
    A key objective of the proposal was to establish a clear identity for the public realm which responded to its existing mature landscape setting.
    Currently, behind the Grade II listed properties on Hagley Road, are remnants of some existing gardens. Historical maps show how the houses created a perimeter block around the plot enclosing back gardens. Some of the remaining garden elements, such as trees and boundaries, are in good condition and have helped add value to the proposed designs.
    The public realm strategy builds on the idea of the gardens becoming usable public spaces each with a different character and identity to provide variety and choice. Creating new modern gardens from the remnants of the old gardens will enable a layering of character which will help ground the spaces in their surroundings. By using the framework of the existing gardens and opening up new permeable routes through the spaces, the public realm becomes a series of low walled gardens interlinked to create variety of experiences.
    The landscape strategy has been developed to help mitigate the difference in scale between the heritage properties and the new larger proposed buildings. A variety of spaces help with the transition from more intimate, quieter spaces through to more public and open areas within the masterplan.
    The following principles have been developed:
  • Breaking down the spaces to create more choice and variety for users.
  • Retaining some of the mature trees to help transition the scale between the existing and proposed buildings.
  • Character Areas
    An 'Activity Link' will form a spine of the masterplan and provide a strong movement connecting through the heart of the masterplan. A strong street front presence will be noticeable from Hagley Road to provide an open and welcoming address for the development. A main central space, a key arrival point, will form the focus of the space. It will be a flexible and open space which can be programmed to hold events, markets, pop up stalls and exhibitions. The square will become the vibrant heart of the development full of activity and energy, a place where people come together for shared experiences and exchange
    Leading off the Main Square, a series of internal gardens have been proposed, each with their own character within its own distinct character zone, will make the experience of moving through the gardens varied and intriguing. The series of gardens include:
    The Bosco Garden
    The Bosco (Italian shade planting style) garden will be set away from the main square for smaller scale performance events. This large garden room will be enclosed by some magnificent mature existing trees.
    The Walled Gardens
    The concept of 'found' private gardens becoming public spaces will create a feeling of exploration and wonder, which will be experienced by people each time they enter the gardens to find a spot to pause. Each garden will provide a new setting to imagine the garden's past owners, its gardeners and its stories. Each garden has a name, character and personality, but all the gardens will be known for their spectacular planting. By creating a variety of garden rooms, people will be able to enjoy a variety of experiences and ultimately have a choice each time they enter the New Garden Square
    The tall grass garden will be characterised by its winding paths and ornamental grass planting which will create a loose delicate display with seasonal interest.
  • The water garden will attract people by its large lily pond. The water feature creates a focal point for people to meet and gather around.
  • The flower garden will give a spectacular display of colour and allows the opportunity for cut flowers to be available to be used inside the buildings further increasing people's interaction and connection with the gardens.
  • Design team:
    Architect: Glenn Howells Architects
    Engineers: Robert Bird Group
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