Knowledge Hub - an Urban Vision for Eastside

Commissioned by Birmingham City University, the School of Architecture and Design developed a visionary document for the urban design and strategy for the ‘University Quarter’, a loose district in Eastside containing a number of HE and public institutions.

The project included a collaborative design process with Node Urban Design group, Gensler and MArch Architecture students, bringing their expertise alongside the research capabilities of key academic staff. Consultation events were hosted with key stakeholders from the local institutions to prioritise the key values the design should promote. The exchange resulted in the ‘Knowledge Hub’ – a campus where the masterplan is devised as an urban test-bed for new ideas under themes of innovation, health & wellbeing, culture and enterprise.

The design proposed seven public squares that activate the streets, connect key spaces together, encouraging a night time economy and opportunities for students and graduates to incubate new ventures in distinctive yellow market stalls throughout. A further phase of development integrated plans for innovative technical and cultural projects, including STEAMhouse and 5G Demonstrator, to develop new products/services, create jobs, grow business opportunity, increase productivity, and foster vital research in the area.

The Knowledge Hub is a pioneering masterplan that transforms the way we think about, create and develop our public spaces. The way in which these spaces power collaborative thinking, connecting deep science with start-up energy and focus, will harness existing urban spaces with newly designed areas creating a cohesive campus concept.

The design process with institutional stakeholders and design partners is an example of collaborative team-working to create new place-based design innovation, mixing public, industry and academic agency towards a unified interest in revitalising the urban environment.

The project became the main headline on the Birmingham Post, reaching a wide public audience with an editorial response from the newspaper and a separate review from contributor Joe Holyoak. It received the practice award at the National Urban Design Awards, 2017, after receiving the most public votes.

The project expanded the portfolio of both design partners, Node and Gensler, in understanding urban design strategies and working with the Higher Education sector.

This recognition was further cemented with it being featured in Birmingham City Council’s MIPIM delegation in Cannes, in 2016 and the Knowledge Hub Masterplan is referred to in a number of City Council’s planning documents including: Curzon Gateway Masterplan, Digbeth Masterplan and the Birmingham Design Guide, as a key piece of urban policy for the city’s urban regeneration plan.

Find out more about the Knowledge Hub here.