Our ambitious brief was not only to design a state of the art department store but also to create an architectural landmark for Birmingham so that the building itself would become a genuine catalyst for urban regeneration.
We have re-interpreted the notion of a department store, not just in its form and appearance but also in the social function such a building now plays in our society. Its relationship to the church is significant, representing the religious and commercial life of the city that have evolved side by side over hundreds of years. The building provides an ethereal backdrop to the Gothic architecture of St Martin’s and its closeness creates a powerful visual tension between church and department store. Glimpsed from the train entering Birmingham from the south, it promises mystery and excitement in a city undergoing a twenty-first century renaissance.
The fluidity of shape recalls the fall of fabric or the soft lines of a body, rises from the ground and gently billows outwards before being drawn in at a kind of waistline. It then curves out again and over to form the roof, in one continuous movement. The skin is made up of thousands of aluminium discs, creating a fine, lustrous grain like the scales of a snake or the sequins of a Paco Rabanne dress. In sunlight it shimmers, reflecting minute changes in weather conditions and taking on the colours, light and shapes of people and things passing by – an animate and breathing form.