Roger Griffiths Associates (RGA) now trading as epd (Environment Planning and Design), part of Parkwood Consultancy Services (PCS), won the competition to design and implement Kings Heath Village Square near Birmingham City Centre. The vision was to create a centre for spiritual welfare and healthy living in the heart of Kings Heath.
Responding to the detailed design brief, the scheme reflects the idea of the ‘open welcome’, which was further underpinned by the concept of a ‘Cultural Gateway’.
By drawing on links with the surroundings, the aim was to create a central space where people are invited to cross the threshold of their own environment or culture and interact with others around them.
The paved labyrinth in the centre of the square provides a focus for the scheme and symbolises new life and Christian Baptism. A ‘bubble pavement’ water feature is representative of refreshment before entering the Church. At the outer corner, a restored Edwardian lamppost provides a nodal feature at the entrance to the square. A re-sited and renovated War Memorial with seating acts as a feature which provides a gateway to the past. All the existing healthy trees were retained and many new trees were planted to provide a green canopy for the square.
Extensive public consultations were held to ensure that local communities and key groups were engaged in the project and could contribute to the design elements of the Village Square. The Labyrinth, for example, was designed by Alison Ogle, a local artist, in consultation with local young people and community groups. It includes mosaic inserts and quotations on the theme of ‘Cherish Creation and Community’.
As part of the design process an animation was produced to show a ‘fly-through’ that enabled a better understanding of the scheme. It was greatly appreciated by the local residents during the public consultation event on the site.
The relocation of gravestones was another major challenge. The initial site clearance indicated that there were more headstones in the Churchyard than were originally surveyed. Working with the archaeologist and the conservation officer, we carefully revised the plan to ensure the gravestones were appropriately protected and incorporated into the design.
The Kings Heath Village Square was officially opened on Saturday 15 October 2011, accompanied by dancers, drummers and choirs, and many enthusiastic local people. In 2012, the formal review undertaken by the Community Pathways CIC has concluded that the Village Square has created a better local environment and increased access to local quality spaces. It also recognised that the success of a well thought out design in securing the funds which were necessary to accomplish this community project.
Approximate Map Location
epd, part of Parkwood Consultancy Services
Kings Heath, Birmingham
All Saints Community Development Company
|Type of scheme|
Public realm, urban regeneration
The Excellence in Planning & Design for the Public Realm category in the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence; a Level 5 Outstanding award from the Heart of England Royal Horticultural Society in their ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ campaign; the Best Use of Arts and Culture in Regeneration category for the 2012 Regeneration and Renewal Awards
Creation of a centre for spiritual welfare and healthy living in the heart of Kings Heath
• Project manager: All Saints Community Development Company
Birmingham City Council
£430,000 from the Big Lottery's Community Spaces Fund, £210,000 from Birmingham City Council and £20,000 from Kings Heath Centre Partnership
• Main paved area: Charcon Stonemaster dark buff washed permeable paver
• Aggregate Industries
All the existing healthy trees were retained and new trees were planted to provide a large green canopy to the square. The detailed planting scheme was developed to reflect the concept of ‘Cultural Gateway’ and emphasise the sense of individual space within the square. Plants were selected to provide year-round colour and texture.
• A paved labyrinth, designed by artist Alison Ogle in consultation with local young people and community groups, which includes mosaic inserts and quotations on the theme of 'Cherish Creation and Community’