103 Colmore Row
|103 Colmore Row|
|Location||Colmore Row, Birmingham, England|
|Owner||Sterling Property Ventures & Rockspring|
|Height||80 metres (262 ft)|
|Structural system||High rise|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||John Madin Design Group|
|Main contractor||Bovis Construction|
103 Colmore Row formerly known as National Westminster House is a building on Colmore Row, Birmingham, England. The building was designed by John Madin and was completed in October 1975 as offices and a banking hall for National Westminster Bank. After National Westminster Bank vacated the building it passed through several ownerships but failed to lease its offices. In 2008 a plan by then owners British Land to demolish the tower and replace with a taller modern equivalent was approved. This plan never progressed and the building is now owned by the developer Sterling Property Ventures who applied to have the building demolished in January 2015.
The current building is a 23-storey structure with entrances on Colmore Row and Newhall Street. Designed by John Madin, it is of the Brutalist style, contrasting the traditional Victorian architectural styles in the immediate area. Although, the pre-cast concrete panels on the exterior, which were common on commercial buildings of the time, rather than in-situ concrete do make the building differ from classic Brutalism.
Designs for the building were first publicised in 1964 and it was remarked that it had drawn inspiration from the University of Pittsburgh by Louis Kahn. The designs showed a two-storey banking hall with a rectangular tower with horizontal ribbon windows. It also showed a service tower facing on to Newhall Street. This design differed significantly to the one that was approved by Birmingham City Council. The scheme also included a five-storey office block to the west of the site that was separated from it by an L-shaped courtyard. This office block was later reclad and increased to eight storeys in 1996-7 so that it reads as a separate building. The entire scheme was named the "Colmore Centre". The first phase of the scheme, which consisted of the construction of the banking hall, was completed in 1969. Construction of the tower began in 1973 and was completed three years later at a total cost of £3.5 million.
The building was constructed so that it was not purely occupied by the National Westminster Bank but could also be let to tenants so that the bank could maximise the profitability of the site. However, the building proved difficult to let and was never fully occupied with the only major corporation to take office space in the tower was Eversheds. The building has been vacant since 2003.
There are numerous interesting features including the original aluminium-cast banking hall doors, created and made by Henry Haig (1930 – 6 December 2007), who was an English abstract artist, painter and sculptor but notable predominantly for his stained glass work, which consist of an abstract triangle design based on the NatWest logo and are painted to resemble bronze. The banking hall itself has a coffered ceiling of plasterboard covered in gold leaf and Travertine marble floors and skirtings. The exterior is covered in abstract plaster murals and bronze matt ceramic tiles. The lift shaft and two ventilation towers are constructed using brick. The structure was constructed of precast concrete with waffle concrete floor slabs. There are four plant floors at the top of the tower and 100 car park spaces in a basement car park that has been left disused upon the discovery of asbestos. The office block was accessed via a stainless steel surround doorway on Newhall Street, where the land begins to drop, exposing the ventilation grills for the basement. The entrance here appears to be of a later date to the rest of the building. The office block has a service core at the centre of each floor, consisting of a large service duct, lavatories, four lift shafts and staircase. The lifts have stainless steel doors and the lift lobby has Travertine panelling on the walls. There is a kitchen on the twentieth floor which retains its original green panels and equipment, such as the dumbwaiter. The NatWest logo was attached to the west side of the building, although has since been removed leaving only the bracketing. It is believed that considerable efforts were made to reduce the cost of the tower's construction, which took place during a time when rising oil prices ended the development boom of the 1960s making an increasingly hostile economic climate. Examples of cost-cutting measures employed during the construction of the building include the use of plasterboard to mimic concrete on the banking hall's ceiling and the use of an alternative metal to bronze for the banking hall doors.
Upon completion, it formed a prominent point on the Birmingham skyline and continues to do so. It is also one of the most modern buildings and the tallest structure in the Colmore Row and Environs Conservation Area, and has become a frequent perching point for the city centre's peregrine falcons. Architectural critic Andy Foster described the building as being "the most important Brutalist commercial building in the city, disastrous in context but with its own tremendous integrity."
In December 2006, British Land acquired the freehold of the tower from Omega Land for £25 million. They announced their intentions to demolish the tower and replace it with another office tower. This will be their first development outside London.
British Land commissioned Hamilton Architects to design the tower and between 9 October and 11 October 2007, they hosted a public consultation in the banking hall of 103 Colmore Row to showcase their proposals. The proposal at the public consultation was 163 metres (534.8 ft) tall to the top of a light mast and consisted of 28 occupiable office floors and three plant levels. The tower would be the tallest building in the city, only surpassed by the proposed VTP200. It had a roof height of 137 metres (449 ft). GVA Grimley have been hired as planning consultants and the project will cost £160 million.
A planning application was submitted to Birmingham City Council by GVA Grimley on behalf of British Land on 25 April 2008 for the tower with alterations made to that exhibited in October 2007. It was registered by the city council on the same day was given a planning application reference number of C/02353/08/FUL. A cheque made payable to Birmingham City Council of £61,265 was submitted with the planning application. The proposal was summarised on the Birmingham City Council Planning Department website as:
Demolition of office building & redevelopment to provide 35-storey office building with ground floor retail (class A1), financial & professional services (class A2) and restaurant/cafe (class A3) uses.
Alterations were made to the height, with it being reduced by 3.5 metres (11 ft) to 159.5 metres (523 ft) and the roof height to 134.5 metres (441 ft). The new design also had a further four floors of reception and retail space with the Colmore Row elevation consisting of a four-storey colonnade. The tower will also have a green roof to act as a natural habitat for protected bird species and will also provide a 30% reduction in energy use. British Land also hope to achieve a BREEAM 'Excellent' rating for the building. As it is proposed to be constructed on the highest ground in the city centre, it will be one of the most prominent buildings on the skyline. Savills will market the building and it is thought over 2,500 jobs will be created as a result.
The proposal initially received the backing of the Birmingham Civic Society who said that they were 90% happy with the design, however the organisation reversed their decision. The project also met objections from the Twentieth Century Society and the Victorian Society who commented that they were "extremely disappointed" with the proposal. After the public consultation, efforts were made to seek granting the building listed building status from English Heritage. Upon the submission of the planning application, English Heritage wrote to Birmingham City Council that they had concluded that the building should not be listed due to the fact that whilst the building had good qualities of massing, it lacked the high degree of sophisticated architectural detailing that would be expected of a building from this period. They also said that modifications made to the building in the 1990s had considerably compromised the building's architecture and that the interior lacked coherence, although they did comment that the interior of the banking hall did contain many interesting original features. The building received a Certificate of Immunity from Listing on 10 October 2008 until 9 October 2013 from English Heritage. The proposal received planning permission from Birmingham City Council in late September 2008. It was closely contested with six councillors voting against the scheme and seven voting for it.
On 29 September 2014 the building received another Certificate of Immunity from Listing which will last until 28 September 2019. In its report, English Heritage stated that while the component parts of the building are well grouped and form an effective addition to the streetscape of this part of central Birmingham and to the skyline, the building has however been considerably altered and no longer forms the cogent grouping which was initially created. The remaining parts of the building do not have the detailed finish or overall architectural quality which would be expected of a structure of this date which was recommended for designation. It also stated that the repetition of the pre-cast panels across the building creates an impression of regimentation and the turning of the corners is poorly handled. This is particularly apparent on the bank building, where the external treatment of the third floor is ungainly and the edges of the canted corners appear unduly clumsy and unresolved. And while the interior of the banking hall is of interest, it is not matched by the interiors elsewhere, which lack coherence and aesthetic quality.
In November 2014 owners British Land sold the building to Sterling Property Ventures and Rockspring as development partners. In January 2015, Planning Application No: 2015/00293/PA was submitted to demolish the tower, being refused in March 2015. Details for the tower were also revealed in March, the tower will be 103 metres in height and have two restaurants, one being on the ground floor, the other at the top of the tower. The application for demolition will be resubmitted in May together with the application for the new tower.
The site, part of Birmingham City Centre’s Enterprise Zone, is earmarked for early redevelopment.
On 17 March 2015, the developers unveiled plans for the new building at a public consultation event. The proposed building, designed by London-based architects Doone Silver, will measure 211,000 sq ft, with a steel, aluminum and glazed structure. It reaches 336ft high, with 26 storeys, making it the tallest building in the business district. It will comprise 196,000 sq ft of office space over 19 floors, with floorplates up to 11,500 sq ft, with a terrace on the 18th level. A restaurant at street level as well as a 8,600 sq ft restaurant at the top of the building are also planned. In all, the proposals outline 15,000 sq ft of leisure space.
The proposed new build will create 500 direct construction jobs, with the replacement tower housing 2,000 workers.
Sterling Property Ventures managing director James Howarth said they would be replacing an “ugly and unloved tower with a striking building”
103 Colmore Row: Design Features
The Lantern: the top floor restaurant space will remain lit at night, illuminating the skyline.
The Winter Garden: the ground floor frontage on to Colmore Row is set back from the road, allowing pedestrian access and creating space for a winter garden and café. Four steel columns stretch four storeys as a contemporary response to the cornice heights of the existing historic buildings along Colmore Row.
Vertical 'fins': the outer screens of vertical blades help the building achieve more slender proportions. These will be coloured gold, silver, bronze and graphite, adding interest to the façade, reflecting the light as it changes throughout the day and lending the building a vibrant quality.
On the 19th March 2015, city planners deferred the demolition of the existing NatWest Tower.
- English Heritage (Listing) Advisory, M. Bellamy, 9 May 2008. Published by Birmingham City Council on planning application number C/02353/08/FUL. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
- Supporting Statement PPG15 Report, published with planning application number C/02353/08/FUL. Published 28 April 2008 by Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
- Letter from Andrew Round of GVA Grimley, received by Birmingham City Council (9 May 2008). Retrieved 30 November 2008.
- Henry Haig
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- Skyscrapernews entry on the tower
- Emporis: NatWest Tower
- Emporis: 103 Colmore Row
- Skyscraperpage entry