PAST AND PRESENT: HOW OUR TEAM HAS CONTINUED TO TRANSFORM ONE OF BIRMINGHAM’S MOST ICONIC BUILDINGS

After being part of the Birmingham-based Curtins team for over a decade, I am really pleased to have been appointed as our office lead, and will now be guiding our 40-strong team in delivering a range of high-profile projects across the West Midlands as well as driving strategic growth throughout the region.

Birmingham is a really vibrant city and there have been a number of projects we have been involved in which have empowered Birmingham to re-establish itself as an urban powerhouse. One such scheme is the Mailbox – Birmingham city centre’s premier shopping and lifestyle destination – where we have been involved in its regeneration for over 18 years, transforming the space which was originally home to the famous Royal Mail sorting office.

As one of the UK’s largest mixed-use buildings, the Mailbox has been both a delight and at times a challenging project for our team. It’s a scheme which really brings to life the importance of good engineering and design when it comes to redeveloping older and no longer fit-for-purpose spaces on a large scale.

Being a historical building, the Mailbox has been quite unique to work on and interestingly some of the most helpful tools we’ve had at our fingertips have been existing drawings and photographs which have helped with further developments to the building. Through studying these drawings, we were able to find out the Mailbox’s beam sizes, even reactions, foundation sizes and also gain an understanding of how its cladding fits and how it went together thanks to a detailed isometric drawing.

All of this information gave us greater confidence in understanding the existing space and coming up with the best possible solutions during redevelopment, saving our team time and always working to create the best outcomes for the client.

The Mailbox has evolved continuously over the years and one of the biggest transformations has been the creation of a central room where visitors to the Mailbox can dwell and gather. Originally the central area had no roof and was dark, cold and damp, meaning it wasn’t an attractive space for visitors. We worked with the architects to create a cosy environment through the installation of a roof light over the whole mall; opening it up and revitalising it.

Over the years, we have been involved in many fit-outs including Tom’s Kitchen, the high-end department store Harvey Nichols and a number of offices, each of which have come with their own unique set of challenges and quirks.

Harvey Nichols was an especially interesting project, as the building’s existing floor didn’t have the capacity to support the mezzanine space the client wanted to install and we couldn’t strengthen from below due to limited access to the private car park. To combat this, we proposed a network of new steels in the ceiling, which allowed us to ‘hang’ the new mezzanine from above.

Access limitations have also been an ongoing challenge at the Mailbox after the first phase of redevelopment works were completed and three storeys of apartments were situated on the roof, meaning we could no longer use cranes. Instead we had to carry out all works within the building, and rely upon savvy design and tools – tailoring proposals with access in mind.

As a firm, we pride ourselves on working in collaboration with our clients and partners to deliver innovative and creative solutions to gain the very best results and the Mailbox has continued to prove this time and time again.

We are perfectly placed to continue working on this iconic building, as over the years we have taken on each new challenge with open arms through our understanding of the building’s past and awareness of wider plans for regeneration in Birmingham. I am excited to see what happens next!