Birmingham's, shall we say 'rocky' relationship with sky bars is set to take a helluva turn when D&D launch their as yet unnamed 24th floor restaurant, at 103 Colmore Row. I pride myself on being first through the door at Brum launches but this time I've excelled myself by walking into the restaurant many months too early, with a 2022 opening likely. It's going to be well worth the wait.
On the ground floor, in front of the building, will be a quadruple height winter garden, underneath an as yet unrevealed piece of spectacular public art — perfect for pre-drinks before you ascend. Inside there are 12 lifts including two dedicated elevators serving the roof top restaurant (see in orange, above), shuttling guests past 20 floors of office space, the 18th floor of which has a 3,000 sq ft roof terrace. I've made enquiries about a desk, but office floor plates start at 8,839 sq ft, so it's not looking great for this one-man team.
When you arrive up top it's hard not to be floored with emotion. Beauty, pride, awe, whatever it was, it made me instinctively let slip a long, drawn out F-bomb that I don't remember dropping but was clearly audible on my dictaphone. The 360° views of our town are unlike anything I've ever seen. Each 2.5-tonne, 9 metre glass panel, crystal clear and spanning the full two storey height, the view north towards the BT Tower every bit as handsome as the view south towards Rotunda. It's electric.
D&D have previous when it comes to jaw-dropping interiors — less boxes, more tables is my prediction — and are no strangers to breath-taking views. Their CV includes the immaculate German Gymnasium, Quaglino's and the Bluebirds in London, with 20 Storeys in Manchester their most altitude-friendly venue to date — this Birmingham spot going four storeys better, as it's duty-bound to do.
They're staying tight-lipped on designs and positioning of the finished restaurant but it's likely to be 100+ covers, helped along with the kitchen area being a floor below. Designs, however, are advanced on what will doubtless be home to the city's most sought after tables, the tower standing, as it does, 246 metres above sea level and 108 metres from the ground.
The new build replaces the old claret and grey Natwest Tower, a 22-storey concrete number designed by John Madin, work commencing in 1971 and completed in 1976. "It was no longer fit for purpose," says Andrew Hawkins, development director of Sterling Property Ventures, "and had laid empty for 10 years. Yes, preserving buildings is vital, but the Natwest Tower was at the very end of its cycle. It was full of asbestos, impossible to make thermal efficient, impossible to make green. It didn't have enough lifts for modern regulations. There was no way of repurposing it."
Sitting at the junction of Colmore Row and Newhall Street, its £87 million replacement is the tallest commercial building in Birmingham and the tallest new office building outside London. 103 Colmore sits atop a sandstone ridge that runs though the centre of Brum, meaning although some structures in the city are taller, they absolutely don't look it when you're up there. At 152 metres the BT Tower has 103 bested on height (see below), but feels very much on a level. The Cube, at 18 storeys is no tiddler, but sitting down in Gas Street Basin feels dwarfed by 103.
HOW 103 COLMORE ROW STACKS UP
Construction started in December 2018 and since then, contractors BAM have installed 2,440 tonnes of steel, poured 25,000 tonnes of concrete and fitted 2,300 glazing panels. On-site facilities include shower and changing rooms, 24 car parking spaces with charging points, plus 3 motorcycle and 92 bike spots with practical completion set for August 31.
You don't need to hunt the Facebook comments for long to find the development's detractors, the most common criticism being that it's "just a generic glass block". Presumably the same people who balk when Birmingham builds something audacious like, say, Selfridges. "Tall, glass buildings are extremely sympathetic to their surroundings," says Andrew. "And we are bang in the middle of a conservation area. Watch this building and how it behaves in different lights — how it blends in with its surroundings. The reflections working in its favour and in the favour of its neighbours. Complementing them. A lot of thought went into it — right down to small details. The cornice line for example, at the top of the winter garden follows the Victorian cornice line of Colmore Row, so the sight line isn't infringed upon. It's a Millennium building sitting as comfortably as it possibly can in Victorian streets."
For my money, perhaps you can tell, I think it's a marked improvement on its empty, unwanted predecessor. I was crestfallen to see Madin's Central Library fall, perhaps because of the hours and hours I spent in there, pretending to work. I had no connection with the Natwest Tower and doubt many did, but hopefully the replacement, open as it is to the general public, will chime in the hearts of Brummies. "We didn't want to create a landmark building that nobody can go in," says Andrew. "I mean, what's the point? If only the lucky few who work in there, and even fewer who work at the top can enjoy that view. That didn't sit right with us. We had the luxury of being able to build something that could welcome the public to the very top — a luxury all those new residential buildings don't have. So we jumped at the chance."
The absolute Queen responsible for choreographing the Commonwealth Games handover ceremony, Rosie Kay, is appearing on stage for the first time in six years. Launching a triple bill of solos, Rosie will be looking backwards and forwards at her personal experience as a female in dance with what will be the first performance to re-open The REP. Some 21 years on from her first-ever solo show, Absolute Solo, which she performed in the 1999 Edinburgh Festival, comes Absolute Solo II, on May 19, from £18. The new work was created in lockdown and explores the emotional connection between her life and dance. Now, a little older, she has something to say about the female body and the experience of being a woman on stage. Part autobiography, part socio-anthropological study, Rosie uses ideas of performance, identity, sex and gender to explore her new dancing spirit. More
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY
(ON A TUESDAY)
The latest Brum institution to show its hand on what (touch wood) is the great unlocking of our wonderful city, is the iconic Hippodrome, who will be showing Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's classic musical Tell Me on a Sunday. Charting the romantic misadventures of (*Sting impression*) an English girl in New York, in the 1980’s, the show will mark the first live production to take place at the Hippo since its solemn March 16 closure. Lloyd Webber’s score includes the chart-topper Take That Look Off Your Face as well as the title track. It's directed by Paul Foster and stars Jodie Prenger as ‘Emma’ (pictured) marking her return to the stage following ovation worthy performances in the National Theatre’s production of A Taste of Honey. It runs from August 24 (that's a Tuesday) to August 28, tickets from £18. Prior to that, the massive immersive hit, Van Gogh Alive, returns May 25 to July 11, from £20. More
You think working from home for a year was tough, Natalie Farouz has been doing it for five years, running her online jewellery store No Basic Bombshell. Now, though, is the time for her to launch a physical shop-cum-studio, called No Basic Boutique and, yes, of course, it's going into the Custard Factory. Natalie's career as a fashion buyer saw her living in London and LA, but she moved back to the West Mids to be with her mom following the sudden death of her father. She found therapy in handcrafting jewellery and it wasn't long before Katy Perry — ok, quite impressive — was snapped wearing a pair of her top-selling geode earrings (below). Rita Ora is also a fan, if you're asking. The studio, along the same bank of units as 670 Grams and Roberto's, opens on May 1, when you'll be able to see Natalie at work, check out her products and the handmade homewares, clothing, accessories and art of other local traders plus, in the not too distant future, join jewellery workshops. There'll be plants aplenty and actual chihuahuas. No Basic Bombshell was so named — and this is ace — because Natalie won't have anyone call themselves "basic" and certainly won't have anyone else call them it. "Everyone is a bombshell," she says. What a Brummie. Follow the Boutique on insta here and Natalie's personal account here.
Flatpack Festival returns May 21 to 31 and the event I've gone most gah-gah over is the screening of Paradise Lost: History in the Unmaking. If you've not seen the trailer it's remarkable and this interview with the maker really whet's the old appetite.
Burger newbies Patty Dabblers are next to take the pop-up kitchen mantle at Kings Heath's The Juke. Starting today, Juke will also be stocking Harborne-made ice cream of gods, Odi + Moo. More
Cult bingo brand 'Bingo Lingo' has announced a summer schedule of events at the Forum Birmingham, formerly the (in)famous Hummingbird. Bingo begins May 21. More
Today, tomorrow and Saturday Andy Low N Slow will be doing tacos at Cup Coffee Shop in Hagley. Click and collect with limited walk in. Menu & more
"Vertigo is the conflict between the fear of falling
and the desire to fall" — Salman Rushdie
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