Back to the 2023 Shortlist Small Housing Development

Alben Works

Sponsored by
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Web Alben Works photo by Tom Bird 3


Location: Birmingham

Brick Manufacturer: Northcot Brick + Wienerberger Limited

Brick Name: Broadway Buff + Blue Engineer Perforated Bricks

Architect: Sjolander da Cruz

Contractor: TBC

About the project

Located in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter (JQ) is a mixed used development consisting of nine individual 3 and 4 storey contemporary houses arranged around a new courtyard, together with four Live/Work Lofts and ground floor commercial space fronting the site. Alben Works reanimated a once neglected parcel of land. The site was derelict, previously used as a badge factory housed in two single storey 60’s sheds to the rear of the site with car parking and disused sub-station at the front.

The brief called for the materiality, spacial simplicity and honestly of these spaces to be integral to the development, the aim being to differentiate the development from typical mixed-use schemes and focus on space, light, sustainability and connecting the development to the industrial heritage of the JQ.

A logical design programme for the houses was adopted, by placing the living spaces on the upper floors to take advantage of better views and light, and also allowing open plan living areas to be linked with double height spaces creating living areas on the top two floors. This also enables light to reach the rear of the plan and to filter into the lower bedroom floors down the open staircase shaft. Great connection to the outdoors terraces on the second and third floors, access from the open plan double height living spaces and big triple glazed windows eliminate dark corridors.

The building fronting the street contains commercial uses with a double height office at ground floor and four live/work units on the three floors above that. Conceived to encourage the traditional artisan working model of the JQ, the units have a dedicated workspace capable of being used independently from the living areas, with generous floor to ceiling heights, large triple glazed windows and exposed brick walls and concrete ceilings. The interior materiality of the exposed surfaces was key to ensuring these spaces maintain the industrial aesthetic.

The overarching approach to this development was to create sympathetic architecture that utilises a simple and elegant palette of materials together with historic proportions to positivity reflect the heritage and architectural language of the Jewellery Quarter. The new buildings draw on the rich heritage of the Jewellery Quarter utilising red facing brickwork with details and brick bonds inspired by nearby historic buildings to tie in with the built texture of the street. Elevational proportions have been carefully designed to utilise window modules which characterise many of the listed buildings in the area and emphasis is given to the ground floor with a double height communal entrance and commercial unit creating a strong and active frontage. The use of brick was integral to the success of the project, as key to the project was ensuring that the materials complemented and contributed to the overall streetscape.

Sponsored by ARC Building Solutions

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ARC Building Solutions is a specialist manufacturer of cavity fire barriers and cavity closers, based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Established in 2008, ARC specialises in bringing unique and innovative products to market. Designed to solve real world on-site challenges, ARC’s products help to deliver safer and more sustainable homes and buildings. ARC’s wealth of technical experience ensures that the best solution can be identified from our comprehensive range of products.

ARC Building Solutions