Glenn Howells Architects is an architectural firm based in London & Birmingham established in 1990. Their approach is rooted in the exploration of how places and buildings and things are made and how these can improve the lives of individuals and communities. The British architecture studio unveiled its master plan for the Typhoo Wharf, which included the BBC Headquarters, Birmingham, which is located in the historic Typhoo Factory in the Digbeth area.
The Typhoo Wharf will be an emerging mixed-use and cultural district for the historic canal, waterfront, and warehouses. The Typhoo Wharf proposal includes a 1.2-ha site area, which will include existing old structures as well as adding new ones. More than 10 acres of underutilized land will be transformed under this master plan. For the factory, the exterior was retained and the interiors were adopted to create a purpose-built workshop. The new office allows flexibility for the organization to adapt and grow. The location is within minutes from HS2 and builds the legacy of the firm. The project is an 84000 sq. ft state-of-the-art broadcasting space for all their various channels and teams.
The original Typhoo factory was designed by Harry W Weedon and was built in the 1960s. Ever since 1978, the site has been used for light industrial purposes or has been derelict. Through Glenn Howells proposals the building will be brought back to life for close to 100 years, as claimed by the firm. It is now said to be leased out to the BBC for a minimum of 20 years.
The architects’ approach was to craft a world-class workplace and a centre piece for the Typhoo Wharf. In close collaboration with the BBC team, the adaptive reuse of the building was carried out. While retaining the outer shell of the factory and maintaining the legacy, the interiors along with a series of architectural interventions make the design characterful, contemporary, and purposeful. It is a mirror of the working culture and traditions of the BBC. The headquarters have been designed to cater to programs like studios, editing suites, collaborative spaces, meeting rooms, workspaces, TV production areas, and terraces. The first and the second floors are largely work areas, with the top floor housing roof terraces.
Essence of Sustainability | BBC Birmingham
In this honest attempt at collaboration and respectful adaptive reuse, Glenn Howells has been able to retain two-thirds of the existing building. The structural frame, facade, and slabs of the factory remain preserved. The roof of the building overlooks the Birmingham skyline and the HS2 Curzon Street Station. The roof houses solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. The roof is also a rainwater harvesting catchment area. The roof to the south of the building is brown – with local species planted enhancing the local biodiversity. Not only is the design exemplary but also sustainable. It aligns with BBC’s vision of being net zero, net zero carbon by 2030. Not only this, it aims to be Birmingham’s first net zero construction buildings, setting a new benchmark for city architects and developers. Glenn Howell aims to achieve a BREEAM rating of “outstanding” and an “A-rated” energy performance certification.
The architects have added several new elements which work like a breath of fresh air to the facades of the building. It is an air-tight facade, with high thermal performance to move towards better energy performance of the building. The west facade draws influence from the existing buildings. It pays homage to the Typhoo factories’ art deco characteristics. Art Deco elements like stepped parapets and alternating English bond brickwork is continued in the west facade as well. The facade is shaded. The shade is a beautifully done deep brickwork pier. The use of brickwork in the building, especially the facade, is done to engage with the history of the building.
The public side facade is treated like a “double-height shopfront”. It attracts the merging neighborhood around the site as well as the audience of Typhoo Wharf. It also houses the display board for the BBC. Grant Associates are responsible for the new landscape and urban realm for the Typhoo wharf and the office. Earlier the BBC office was in a repurposed post office, which reflects in their commitment to shifting to the new Typhoo base.
A grand atrium is designed in the centre of the factory, with a skylight to allow natural light into the workplace. The atrium divides the building into two wings, which are linked by a bridge running through the atrium. The idea of natural light, and the bridge, promote incidental meetings, and opportunities for interactions and conversations. Taking the BBC ethos a bit further it encourages teams to share ideas and explore new possibilities beyond their departmental boundaries.
The office is expected to be complete by 2025 when it will be up and running in Digbeth. Developers Stoford have spearheaded this move for BBC, from the purview of construction and development. The commitment to conserving a building that dates back to 1929, and therefore an entire area, which has been left for daces is remarkable. It goes to show the power of architecture, over lives, and the difference the correct architectural approach can make to places.
Cajsa Carlson |17 March 2023 Leave a comment (2023) Glenn Howells architects to turn Typhoo Factory into BBC Birmingham HQ, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2023/03/17/glenn-howells-typhoo-tea-factory-bbc-birmingham/ (Accessed: March 24, 2023).
Typhoo Tea Factory approved (2023) Glenn Howells Architects. Available at: https://www.glennhowells.co.uk/typhoo-tea-factory-approved/ (Accessed: March 24, 2023).