Custard Factory

Birmingham

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Birmingham is always in flux and nowhere is this more apparent than in Digbeth. The area was once the industrial heart of Birmingham, crammed full of Victorian factories and small workshops, cheek by jowl with schools, workers and families.

Above: Concept model showing the original development

We have been working with the Custard Factory and in Digbeth for over 30 years. Initially working on the design of the first spaces in the re-invented Birds Custard Factory, most of which were let before the brochures were even printed, and since then continuing to be involved in the area’s development as more tenants arrived.

Above: Images show the scheme pre and post development

The original Custard Factory buildings were a collection of early 20th-century industrial and office premises. The brief for the initial phase of the project was to convert the buildings into affordable, attractive workspaces and create an environment in which small creative companies could interact and support each other.

Key to this was the emphasis on public open space and interesting common areas, together with achieving a mix of uses – particularly catering, retail and performance spaces at ground-floor level – that animated the project and created a critical mass of activity in a previously remote location.

The Custard Factory provided a natural home for young entrepreneurial businesses looking for the opportunity to work and socialise alongside and likeminded companies. We also made the building its first home and is still based nearby on Bradford Street.

Arts Council/British Gas Award 1995
British Urban Regeneration Association Award 1995


Above: The diagram shows the boundary of the Oval masterplan with the Custard Factory and Custard Factor Living highlighted

30 years on, we are re-visiting the Custard Factory, alongside Oval Real Estate and a wider team. We are involved in plans for the regeneration of this neighbourhood, providing concept and capacity testing for four development plots across the masterplan and providing review and input into the emerging wider masterplan. Two of these plots will form part of the first phase of development: a three-storey office extension to Custard Factory and a 40-unit residential building on Floodgate Street adjacent, known as Custard Factory Living.

The Custard Factory Rooftop Extension will provide three additional storeys to create a rooftop garden and open-plan offices with far-reaching cityscape views. Custard Factory Living follows the rhythmical façade of the adjacent Custard Factory and will be the first residential accommodation to be delivered as part of the framework. It will provide 40 new homes with ground-floor retail and café uses along with the River Rea and will be connected to the Custard Factory by a new bridge.