Something New Above the Noise of the City

In Bearing we have recently together with Thomas Vale Construction, Duncan Berntsen of Berntsen Consulting and Greenwich University and Robert Edwards of Acivico Ltd participated in designing a building on the concepts of innovation and science park without walls.

It is the iCentrum building, a high profile  extension to the Birmingham Science Park Aston in the British Midlands.

Birmingham has long been known as the ‘city of a thousand trades’, home as it has been to generations of pioneers and entrepreneurs who saw the opportunities available within new developments in technology, manufacturing and related services and also had the courage and tenacity to create new worlds from their ability to configure practical products.


iCentrum is a building designed for the next 50 years for an activity that is high velocity, uncertain, highly mobile and highly innovative. As such it is required to embrace the future in addition to the present. However it is required also to have learnt from the mistakes of past development in the way that it relates to the surrounding urban built fabric and make a major contribution to the success of what is now known as the learning quarter and the city of Birmingham.

rubik cubeiCentrum must address these issues to adequately answer the preoccupations of the City Planning Team and prove adequate connections with the existing neighborhood fabric, while providing architecture for a city whose built environment is now moving well beyond simple level headed development. However within any worthwhile work it is as crucial to optimise use, composition, brand value, capital and lifecycle cost and a responsibility for future generations.

A detailed planning application for the 30,000 sq ft iCentrum building, together with an outline application for the rest of the 120,000 sq ft Digital Plaza development will be submitted later this summer. Thomas Vale Construction is the contractor who will make the innovative building appear in reality.
Potentially modernising European science park services in the process, iCentrum should become an appealing urban centre for an innovation environment. Citizens, business firms (including inventive start-ups), universities and other institutions will have ample opportunities to interact opening new creative relationships among us, our digital devices and our intangible assets.

Subject to planning approval, work will start on the site before the end of 2012. The Birmingham Science Park Astons flagship Faraday Wharf building (completed in 2001) will be upgraded and linked to iCentrum via a first floor bridge.

icentrum personas

A highly innovative funding model designed by Richard Shaw from Bearing will enable iCentrum to be built speculatively, ending a four year drought of no purely speculative office development in Birmingham.

Developing the concept for this project has been an open and creative process, involving specialists in the United Kingdom and from overseas. Duncan Berntsen from Berntsen Consulting and Greenwich University has been a key person, together with his team Jake Bassett, Veatriki Bania and Paul Pindelski. From Bearing, Jörgen Eriksson, Professor Jan Annerstedt and Richard Shaw has been on the project team. Colin Callaghan from Thomas Vale Construction initiated the project.

The dialogue undertaken with the Birmingham Science Park Aston executives, in particular the Chief Executive Officer David Hardman, revealed that the briefing documents developed during the design project provided a good point of departure for dialogue processes, but a significant learning curve by all specialists involved was needed to understand and appreciate the full range of opportunities and constraints when translating the ‘Science Park Without Walls’ into the proposed design and implementation proposition.

So, in this way, we have combined urban development with our structured finance skills and innovation in order to create something new and unique.

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