The skyline of a city, its collection of buildings and their various forms and styles are an essential part of what makes any urban environment good or bad. But away from the glass and the bricks and the towers, its the public spaces to relax, convene, work out or unwind that really make a city a place for its people.
Birmingham doesn’t have a large city centre park, but it is home to an inviting collection of pocket spaces, public squares and hidden gardens that offer the chance to stay outside when the sun comes out, and somewhere to contemplate whatever it is that one contemplates on whatever occasion one is contemplating it.
We’ve talked previously about the plans for Paradise Circus, a proud addition to the city centre’s public realm that already includes Victoria Square, Brindley Place and Centenary Square, not to mention Birmingham Cathedrals’ popular churchyard, our most central – if not divine – patch of green. But if you fancy some peace and quiet, it’s the inner city neighbourhoods where Birmingham’s grassy gathering spots are to be found: the Peace Gardens on Holloway Head; St Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter; the modern Sunset Park that forms the centrepiece of the new Park Central quarter.
Adding to the list of new contenders, and currently under construction, is Golden Square, the former car park in front of the iconic Big Peg building on Warstone Lane in the Jewellery Quarter. As well as creating a natural extension to the outdoor terraces of places like Urban Coffee Company, Golden Square is envisaged as the place for regular farmer’s markets and special events, becoming a contemporary village green at the heart of Birmingham’s most treasured and historic neighbourhood.
With an orchard, promenade and plaza, Golden Square stretches to around 43,000 sq ft and embraces the future as well the Jewellery Quarter’s historic roots: the blue bricks of the plaza are present throughout the neighbouring streets and the orchard will replicate a time when every house had a fruit tree in its garden. The promenade will take pedestrians past all the shopkeepers on the ground floor of The Big Peg, and there’ll be a new retail unit on the other side of the new square.
Scheduled to open early in 2015, The Golden Square project is a wonderful thing for the Jewellery Quarter and an exciting addition to the public spaces of Birmingham.