Daniel AllenBirmingham New Street Station was once famous for its cramped spaces and grim exterior. Now, it stands proudly as a gateway to the country’s second-largest metropolis, thanks to innovative design work, a five-year renovation and the aesthetics of stainless steel. When refurbishment began in 2010, as many as 140,000 passengers were using the station each day – more than twice the capacity foreseen in the 1967 refit.
To relieve the overcrowding and bring Birmingham New Street’s appearance into the 21st century, designers expanded the concourse to three and a half times its size and added an atrium to bring in sunlight. Platforms were made more accessible with new escalators and lifts. However, the station’s most talked about feature after its September 2015 reopening was the distinctive façade, the curves and waves of mirrored stainless steel envisioned by architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo as a way to represent the motion and flows taking place inside.
Industry meets design
The reflective façade consists of 8,000 panels made from Outokumpu’s Supra 316 stainless steel. No single panel is alike – the curvature of the surfaces demanded that each of the 3 millimeter-thick pieces be laser cut to individual dimensions before being polished to a shine and finished for delivery to minute. Once installed, they create the 20,000-square meter surface that cocoons the concrete station building.
This futuristic façade both amplifies the existing light in the immediate area and mimics the sky or surrounding urban architecture with impressive visual effect.
A material for the ages
In addition to its aesthetic advantages, stainless steel is an ideal material for façades like those of Birmingham New Street station. Its high strength and anti-corrosive properties mean that it can easily stand up to the harshest wind and rain of northern England.
As stainless steel has an incredibly long life cycle, Birmingham New Street can shine for decades or even longer, ensuring that this new addition to the cityscape will remain a recognizable symbol of Birmingham for generations to come.