The Curzon Symposium

Back in December 2016, the great and the good met at BCU to discuss the Curzon Masterplan – essentially how Birmingham City Council hope to maximise the benefits of HS2 and prepare Digbeth for the high speed terminus.

The Curzon Symposium consisted of a number of presentations, tours of the area, and workshops to discuss how we should integrate HS2 into the fabric of Digbeth. One quite important observation was that only two residents were present at this event, and only one person was under the age of 32 (that person being me – the youngest person at a meeting discussing the future of Europe’s youngest city, where 50% of the population is under 30).

Here’s a video recorded on the day, with some of the speakers, outlining the reasons for the event:

You can read a fuller report on the day here, but I’ve highlighted what I thought were important points raised during the day below:

  • Richard Cowell (Assistant Director for Development at Birmingham City Council) shared that the Council’s vision is to integrate HS2 terminus station with the metro and public spaces to make the station work in 360 degrees.
  • Henk Bouwman (a visiting Urbanist) highlighted how HS2 doesn’t just have to be a station: Rotterdam Central Station is also a workspace, power plant (solar roof panels), and on one Sunday a month – a concert hall!
  • Henk also stressed the importance of listening to the voices of young people, with perhaps his most profound observation being that although a plan will be put in place, Digbeth will not necessarily ever be ‘finished’.
  • Ian Mulcahey (Managing Director at Gensler) noted that Digbeth was created out of necessity by tradespeople, and asked whether planning is the enabler or the barrier to creativity? Since Digbeth is a small grain area, we need to target small scale business and not be afraid of diversity.
  • A number of people raised the importance of cultural activities, and not neglecting the spaces below viaducts, which present opportunities for people to interact with the existing architecture.

During the day, Liz Peace CBE (who is leading the Curzon Masterplan) shared a video of Digbeth by Andrew Smallwood. This is a fantastic showcase of “Digbeth… the definition of forward”. View it below:

We’ll keep you up to date on all developments we hear, but the initial sounds are all fairly positive and feel as though we are moving in the right direction.

Pamela Pinski

Digbeth and Proud

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