The Cube, Birmingham
Pushing the Boundaries of Design and Construction
The Cube is the final phase of Birmingham’s highly successful Mailbox development. It features a dramatic façade created using more than 20,000 Wicona unitised panels.
Designed by Make, this is an exceptional £100m 23-storey mixed-use scheme, which is pushing the boundaries of design and construction. The 42,000m2 development was inspired by the jewellery and engineering heritage of the city, and is based on the concept of a jewellery box.
An Intricate, Bespoke Façade Design
The bespoke façade was constructed using Wicona unitised curtain walling to provide a geometric blend of projecting gold, silver and bronze anodised aluminium panels and glass. This intricate design is complemented by a decorative metallic fretwork screen.
The 20,000 panels have three different depths, casting a variety of shadows to add texture to the external façade. The internal elevations are different but no less dramatic, designed to emphasise the jewels within the box. Glazed unitised panels twist up through a central courtyard and ‘explode’ at the top to crown the building with the city’s first rooftop restaurant.
The Advantages of a Unitised Façade
On this project, the Wicona unitised façade:
- Was engineered to allow a higher degree of building movement
- Removed the need for scaffolding for improved health and safety
- Removed the need for material storage on this constrained city centre site
- Was fabricated off site, allowing each floor to be clad ready for earlier fitting out as the building rose upwards.
A Low Energy Design
The Cube is a high profile mixed-use project, which has a low energy design. The modular cladding gave the architects the flexibility to tailor the glazing on the external and internal elevations in response to potential solar gain, and provide a high degree of insulation and air tightness, as well as a low U value façade.
The project has created a spectacular new ‘entrance’ to the canal network and city centre, accommodating a 44-bedroom boutique hotel, four floors of waterside retail and restaurants, 244 apartments, Grade A offices for a regional department of the Highways Agency, a rooftop restaurant, and sky bar.
Comments from the Construction Team
Frances Gannon, Partner, Make:
“The building acts as a protective metal box, pure in form, assembled from a multitude of glistening components, which give way to a glassy, crystalline interior of light and colour.”
“The specially-designed unitised cladding solution has been an important part of the building’s identity and successfully echoes the city’s heavy engineering heritage. We are delighted with the end result, which is very beautiful, providing a strong contrast between the external façade and the crisp appearance of the courtyard elevations.”
Paul Ruddick, Specification Manager at Wicona in the UK:
“This is Wicona’s largest project in the UK to date and demonstrates how unitised façades can deliver an architect’s ambitious vision for a project, different aesthetic requirements for a single scheme and a demanding specification, as well as site-related advantages, such as minimising work on site, and removing the need for material storage space and scaffolding.”
“The Cube is very different to any other Wicona application – both in the UK and internationally – and its striking, elegant and intricate appearance is testament to the creativity of the design and development team.
The Project Team
Developer: Birmingham Development Company
Structural engineers: Buro Happold
Unitised façade: Wicona
Images: Craig Holmes/Make