Birmingham’s Eastside wins a National Award

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A pioneering vision to transform the Eastside of Birmingham into a creative and cultural hub has been recognised with a major award.

The project, known as the Knowledge Hub Masterplan, was devised by students and academics at Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture and Design led by Professor Kevin Singh and Alessandro Columbano, alongside Birmingham design firm Node.  

Work on the ground-breaking blueprint helped Node scoop the Practice of the Year Award at the National Urban Design Awards, with the scheme recognised for its ingenuity and collaboration between academic and private industry partners.

Dr. Umar Daraz, Director of Innovation said “The Knowledge Hub is an innovative city centre project, which is located around in the proposed HS2 terminus the development of which, marks the start of an exciting journey to build and develop a simple plan that brings together the enormous strengths of leading academic, scientific, entrepreneurial and cultural brilliance that already exists in the heart of Birmingham.

It’s about connecting new developments of the Curzon and Big City Master-plan and the HS2 terminus to create a world-class innovation district, ‘the Knowledge Hub’ using it to ignite the regeneration of and transform the Eastside of Birmingham”.

The Knowledge Hub would incorporate Birmingham’s proposed HS2 station and create vast new areas of public space, enhance creativity and form a quarter which will support the city’s thriving start-up scene.

It was named on a shortlist of four and came out on top to see Node named Practice of the Year for its work drawing up the plans with the University.

The Knowledge Hub will incorporate the University’s STEAMhouse project which has been backed with a £14 million funding package from government to create a creative innovation centre in the Digbeth area.

The centre will bring together academics artists and designers in a bid support creative business and boost jobs.

Alessandro Columbano, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University, said: “The Eastside of Birmingham will be a key area of growth and cultural significance with the arrival of HS2 and other infrastructure projects set to take place.

“The Knowledge Hub is a much-needed vision to really bring all these elements together and transform this part of the city whilst protecting the cultural assets and inspiring arts organisations located there.

“Everyone involved should be delighted with this award as we look forward to developing the proposals further.”

·  Corporation Plaza - Includes a new shared square, a new pavilion for food and retail business start-ups, improved walking and cycling facilities and a new art wall.

·  Aston Square – Includes a new meeting space, new cycle storage facilities, multi-functional pavilion with café and recharging point for electric pods for use in the Knowledge Hub area.

·  Jennens Park – Includes cutting the carriageway from four to two lanes, creating a park and playground with a focus on health and wellbeing, installing new pedestrian routes, providing a series of pavilions and improving connections to Millennium Point and the new Birmingham Conservatoire.

·  Cinema Square – Includes new multi-purpose space, outdoor digital screen for films and art, exhibition space for students, and new paving and lighting linking the Eastside Park.

·  Curzon Street – Includes extending the Eastside Park area, priority for walkers and cyclists, and integration with Midland Metro tram extension and the new HS2 railway station.

·  Eastside Locks – New space for residential and student accommodation as well as business use, protection of historic buildings, links to transport and the creation of an art and lighting installation.


Nigel Wakefield, Node's managing director said: "We are delighted to have been recognised as practice of the year as we approach our sixth anniversary. In that time we have grown a sustainable, design led and commercially astute business with a diverse range of public and private sector clients across our skills of urban design, landscape and heritage.

“This award will help us to continue to grow our team, both in Birmingham and around the country; and ultimately to realise our ambitious growth strategy."