Case Study:

Piccadilly Arcade


Services Used:

  • Refurbishment
  • Conservation
  • Commercial
  • Retail



Client overview:

Our client for this project was Hortons’ Estate – an independent, Birmingham-based property company with a substantial investment and development portfolio.Working with office, industrial, retail and leisure properties throughout the Midlands, their portfolio amounts to two million sq ft of premises, including various landmark buildings, some of which were personally built by Isaac Horton himself.

We have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Hortons’ Estate over the years, and this project was another opportunity to demonstrate our expertise as a team of experienced Chartered RIBA Architects.

The Project

Connecting New Street and Stephenson Street in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, Piccadilly Arcade is one of city’s premier retail locations.

Dating back to 1910, it originally opened as The Picture House, one of the first purpose-built cinemas in Birmingham, before later becoming an arcade of shops in 1926. Today, the building is home to a range of outlets, some of which still feature original shopfronts from the 1920s.

Given the heritage of the site, Align Architecture was appointed to sensitively refurbish the front and back entrances, delivering two attractive contemporary designs that would attract shoppers, while preserving the original features of the building.

The refurbishment would also successfully bring the historic hand-painted ceiling portraits to life, using modern architectural design techniques and practices to highlight the rich heritage of the building.

Only by enhancing the appearance and shopping experience of the site, could Piccadilly Arcade be promoted as a thoroughfare from New Street Station into the heart of the City Centre Retail Core.

The Design

The principle design objective of the refurbishment was to provide a high-quality and well-designed public/commercial space, which would successfully increase footfall by maximising visibility for those people looking in.

Following valuable onsite discussions with the planning officer and various project assessments, we proposed that the new glazed entrances should have openings as high and wide as possible to make the arcade feel like a public space.

This involved making the surrounding frame minimal, which would improve the views through the building, using automatic sliding doors with clear laminated glass to achieve the contemporary design.

Proposing a stainless-steel finish to the pilasters and clad door head frame, the sliding door mechanism would attract people into the arcade.

Only using materials that reflected the heritage and character of the site, we developed lighting concepts that lifted the ambience inside the building, rejuvenating the façade by highlighting the impressive ‘di sotto in su’ style ceiling portraits.

The Outcome

This project gave one of Birmingham’s oldest and most important buildings the prestigious appearance it deserved, using contemporary architectural designs to highlight the heritage of the site.

The use of clear-panelled, automatic sliding doors maximised views into the arcade, successfully promoting activity at street level with passing pedestrians, while raising the profile and importance of both entrances.

Carefully-implemented lighting features gave Piccadilly Arcade a warm and spacious feel that matched its purpose as a premier retail location, bringing the original architectural beauty of the building to life with conviction.

The outcome has transformed the site and surrounding area into an eye-catching shopping destination, providing the perfect link for pedestrians walking to or from New Street Station.

"Align delivered a re-design that ensures shoppers will find the arcade equally inviting from whichever direction it is approached. We believe investing in refurbishments of this quality, with the support of architects like Align, who understand the need for a pragmatic approach to design, will undoubtedly lead to shoppers returning to our high streets in ever greater numbers."

Richard Norgrove, Property Director, Hortons' Estate

Project Overview

♦ Align Architecture appointed to sensitively refurbish Piccadilly Arcade

♦ Refurbished both entrances to the site with contemporary architectural designs

♦ Highlighted the heritage of the building through carefully-implemented features

♦ Successfully transformed the building into an attractive shopping destination

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