For the second year running, World Architecture News was delighted to be a major media and content partner of UK Construction Week which was held at the NEC in Birmingham between 18 and 20 October. WAN hosted three theatre sessions involving city leaders and professionals and also made two WAN AWARDS winning announcements at the event.
One of the highlights on Tuesday 18 October was WAN’s panel discussion on Inspirational Infrastructure. With major announcements being made about Crossrail and Heathrow and with Brexit on the horizon infrastructure projects in the fields of transport and energy are currently attracting a lot of attention.
The session concluded with the winning announcement of the WAN Infrastructure Award 2016, highlighting some of the key international projects being realised today.
Another highlight later on Tuesday was a thought-provoking discussion that was held to debate the wave of regeneration projects that are set to transform Birmingham city centre, A Tale of Three Cities: Birmingham. With the coming of HS2, and longer term links to the Northern Powerhouse, a once in a generation window of opportunity is opening up for the area.
The winning announcement for the WAN Concrete in Architecture Award 2016 also took place at this year’s show on Wednesday 19 October following a panel discussion on the marvels of concrete, Concrete to the rescue...again?
Birmingham reveals ambitious plans to leverage multi-million pound regeneration investments to drive low carbon transition.
A Tale of Three Cities: chair Brian Kilkelly draws on the highlights from the session...
During the session Liz Peace, Chair of Birmingham Curzon Urban Regeneration Company highlighted how Birmingham’s location, the competitive level of property pricing, infrastructure plans, and a high level of public and private support were key drivers for success. Richard Cowell, from Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City Council described the city as one the ‘youngest in Europe’ with a rising community of start-ups exploiting the many offerings of the city including its growing international reach. Zoe Davidson, Head of Regeneration Advisory at KPMG praised the strong strategy and growing sense of identity that has proven in many other cities to be a foundation for attractiveness. Hiro Aso, Firm-wide Aviation & Transportation Practice Area Leader at Gensler drew parallels with Baltimore in the US where social connectivity, green spaces, and authenticity were sited as crucial to the rise of the city.
This is certainly an exciting time for the city but we also discussed the challenges – especially in terms of ensuring the whole city benefits from the huge infrastructure investments. Richard highlighted that as well as the development opportunities around the major transport hubs such as Curzon Street, the city was paying attention to the ‘in-between’ places so that they benefited from greater connectivity and access. Liz recognised this challenge also – referring to the classic ‘doughnut shaped’ development of cities and highlighting how Birmingham is exploiting public sector led developments such as Selly Oak Hospital to catalyse investment in the ‘gaps’. Hiro agreed that considering the integration of developments into their physical context was key, citing Canary Wharf which until recently had failed to achieve this.
Looking ahead at how Birmingham can also thrive through the global challenge of climate change and energy volatility, Richard highlighted the council’s ambitious strategy to use its ownership of the Smithfield development to inspire and stimulate the cities transition to a low carbon economy. Learning from other cities across Europe and the world, Birmingham is drawing in experts to help apply the latest innovative thinking to this transition. The EU’s largest climate innovation initiative, Climate-KIC is one of these sources of ideas and support. Cities and developers seeking to learn from Birmingham and others are invited to participate in their upcoming Climate Innovation Summit next month in Frankfurt.