The Future for Broad Street?
These drawings (by Gemma Strong - see below) show a possible future use for the Bank's old Head
Office in Broad Street. That future use envisages the building as a showcase for Birmingham’s jewellery business.
The drawings give
a good indication of the building's original design, particularly of how the main features (Safe Deposit; Banking Hall; and the Assembly
Room) were fitted into the overall space by the architect, T Cecil Hewitt - see his plans.
Gemma Strong is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University, where she studied Interior Architecture. In a major design project that
formed part of her graduation process, Gemma designed a possible future use for the Broad Street premises. Her conception, in which
she renames the building ‘Emblem’, is to use the four floors to showcase Birmingham’s jewellery trade.
Gemma’s description of
her concept describes how the building will be used:
The Emblem’s purpose is to symbolise Birmingham’s jewellery trade, as many
people are unaware of its heritage and uniqueness. Therefore 'The Emblem' will act as a signpost to promote the industry by displaying
a small selection of what Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has to offer.
'The Emblem' provides a platform for independent specialist
retailers to showcase their classic and beautiful handcrafted pieces to the public. The public are able to purchase items, and will
also have the opportunity to learn about the history and memories associated with the people who live and work in the Quarter. The
building also supports the new generation of talented designers by enabling final year undergraduate students of the School of Jewellery
to study here. There are workshop facilities available, and two exhibition spaces enable the students to display, present, sell their
work and host local events.
The design concept originated from the hallmarking process associated with the Assay Office and the
ability to manipulate a metal mass by enforcing stamping techniques. The concept developed into exploring the fusion of a metal mass
with a precious stone, as these two elements essentially constitute to an item of jewellery. This fusion is portrayed through a glass
structure intervention in the banking hall combined with an extruding embossed floor. Glass shards punch through the existing ceiling
and floor allowing light to filter down through the building and illuminate the central entrance space. The use of glass enables all
four floors to interact within one area, allowing users to view activities taking place in other spaces entices circulation throughout
the whole building.
The basement exhibition space, located in the safe deposit strong room, represents the metal mass with an
enclosed atmosphere and controlled lighting; in contrast the top floor exhibition space is flooded with light with views over the
city, to symbolise light passing through a precious jewel.
the centrally located Safe Deposit is shown as an open exhibition space (ie without the blocks of individual safes),
and the strongroom door is clearly shown, though it is hinged on the wrong side. The old Stationery Department is on the east side,
and now has a stage and seating for presentations. The corridors and strongrooms surrounding Safe Deposit have mostly been retained
but the old Cash Strongroom (south side of Safe Deposit) has gone. Computer workstations occupy a Muniment Room and the Safe Deposit
Reference Rooms. A number of stairways seem to indicate a lower floor that does not exist. The rear access doors from the Stationery
Department have disappeared.
the original layout of this floor (now designed as a retail area) has been mostly retained with the central Banking
Hall surrounded by wide corridors on three sides. The old House Purchase Department still occupies most of the west side of the floor,
although its interview rooms have gone. On the east side of the floor is the area that was occupied at one time by the Current Accounts
the Assembly Room occupies most of the full length of the floor on the west side of the floor - as in the original
design; the alterations made in the 1980s shortened this room. Little trace remains, however, of the Committee's Board Room; the Kitchen;
and the Caretaker's Flat.
This cutaway drawing shows Head Office from the east
this shows how the open, upper level of the Banking Hall occupies the central section of the floor. The north corridor
(behind the loggia's pillars) still features the balcony overlooking the Banking Hall. The west side originally had four offices,
the central two used by the General manager and his deputy. The east side was the location for the Accounts Department. The south
corridor has acquired the seven widows that originally illuminated toilets and cloakrooms.