Birmingham Civic Society’s Planning Committee met in April following their visits to the three short listed buildings in March for the 2016 Renaissance Award. The short listed buildings are:

  • Pig & Tail Public House
  • Assay Studios
  • St Luke’s Gas Street

Pig & Tail Public House (Former George & Dragon), Architect: the space* studio

The committee were highly impressed by the renovation of the former George & Dragon public house (Grade II) and the commitment and vision of those involved in the restoration of the building. The building had fallen into a very poor condition and its demolition looked very likely. However, it was brave decision to commit to restoring this building and bring it back into vibrant use. The committee considered the refurbishment to be very successful. The uniqueness and character of the original building has been celebrated and is integral to the building as a whole. The fact that it has been retained as a public house is equally commendable and demonstrates that sometimes the original purpose is always the best. The development has discretely incorporated apartments to the upper floors, which the committee felt reflected the changing nature of the Jewellery Quarter as a place to live, work and play. There should be more developments of this nature and quality within the Jewellery Quarter. Although small in scale, it certainly makes up for it in courage, commitment and vision for bringing this important building back into positive use.

Assay Studios,
Architect: Glenn Howells Architects

The committee were encouraged by how the former Assay Office (Grade II) has been converted into modern office accommodation. Many of the original features and character of the building have been retained. The building had been looked after by the former owners, and so the approach was much more about what not to do rather than what to do – which is commendable. The conversion of the former workshop spaces on the upper floors form flexible, open-plan office spaces for a variety of companies. The committee felt that creative re-use of some of the more difficult features of the building, such as a former safe becoming a mini-meeting room, was fun and engaging. However, it was felt that some of the lower areas of the building had not been fully resolved and so left questions in terms of how these will be used and brought back into positive use.

St Luke’s Gas Street, Architect: APEC Architects

The Gas Retort building (Grade II*) is an important building as part of Birmingham’s industrial heritage. It had remained vacant for a number of years, awaiting a viable use that would benefit from the large open plan spaces that are integral to the building’s history. The committee were pleased to see how St Luke’s has accommodated the various spaces which offer them the flexibility and functionality for services and a variety of other activities. Phase two of the building’s refurbishment has been recently completed, with a further final phase still to be completed which will see the completion of the modern ‘pods’ within the larger spaces and glazed partitions to visually connect the areas. The committee were greatly encouraged by the sensitive work that has already been carried out on the building and how new facilities are being appropriately ‘inserted’ within the building. Although the building is currently in use and serving the local community, the committee felt that the final phase of work needs to be completed in order to fully assess the building for the Renaissance Award. They would welcome it being considered again once all works have been completed.

Summary & Recommendations:

  • The Planning Committee were unanimous in recommending that the 2016 Renaissance Award be presented to the Pig & Tail Public House (former George & Dragon).
  • The Planning Committee felt that the Assay Studio is commendable but it did not fully meet the aspirations for the Renaissance Award.
  • The Planning Committee felt that St Luke’s Gas Street should be reconsidered for a Renaissance Award upon the completion of the final phase of works to the building.