Project AIMS

The aim of this exciting and ambitious International Design Competition is to find design teams to develop contemporary conceptual proposals for Centenary Square, an existing prominent square in the centre of Birmingham. These ideas will in turn spark the imagination, encourage discourse and offer creative solutions to develop this space. The physical ideas should be ones that will promote a positive cultural transformation of the square, making it a world class space and popular destination.

These proposed interventions should value and support both the civic and community engagement. The square, although an important space for the gathering of people at formal events, should also be a catalyst for bringing people into the area to stop and relax, promote interaction on a smaller scale and informal level; slowing down the pedestrian speed.

Some of the surrounding buildings have been recently transformed or are in the process of being developed so the square is in a state of flux. We hope new ideas will promote the creation of new linkages with surrounding open spaces and walkable routes; creating a new ambience within the square whilst linking important cultural buildings.

It is important to consider the existing square and public highway as one entity. The design should consider the extent of the square as the boundary of the site stretches out to the surrounding façades. The square should celebrate the existing architecture of the surrounding buildings whilst creating a coherent public realm which will strengthen its identity.

A new 'open-air living room' needs to be created which is accessible to all of the people of Birmingham and visitors; a friendly, multi layered, durable, safe, flexible square promoting a harmonious place for pedestrians overall and cyclists. (Birmingham Mobility Action Plan). The Square's intrinsic nature should interact with all who engage with it.

Design Considerations for all of the following:

  • King Edward VII statue by Albert Toft is in a fixed location and cannot be relocated
  • Baskerville Type Face sculpture 'Industry and Genius' can be relocated but should still relate to Baskerville House as this has been located here in honour of John Baskerville; and positioned in front of Baskerville House. The letters spell out Virgil, the name of the Roman poet whose works were printed by Baskerville, in his typeface
  • New Birmingham Family statue by Gillian Wearing can be retained in the square or omitted for relocation
  • Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdock statue by William Bloy can be retained in the square or omitted from the design for relocation
  • Retention of the existing 'carpet' of brick paving by Tess Jaray should be considered
  • The function and listed building status of the Hall of Memory should be considered and incorporated within the design

  • The current external areas of seating associated with the Rep and The Library of Birmingham should be retained within the design
  • Potential for external seating for all the surrounding and future buildings should be accommodated
  • Counter terrorism measures for the square should be an integral part of the design
  • Cycle routes and cycle parking provision should be considered
  • Constraints of the Metro and all other public transport should be considered
  • Proposals to consider constraints of Network Railway Tunnel running below
  • New lighting strategy to be considered
  • 3 x pedestrian crossings across Broad Street to be maintained, although the locations may change to suit the design

Design Considerations for some or all of the following:

  • Solution for a space which can cope with a large number of visitors at various events
  • Information capabilities to facilitate the evolving culture and use of the space
  • Temporary exhibition spaces
  • Temporary stalls

  • Outdoor performance opportunities
  • Consideration of microclimate, specifically wind mitigation
  • Provision of street furniture and lighting
  • Incorporation of the library void within the design


Birmingham is the West Midland's regional capital and the UK's second largest city. Birmingham has a population of just over 1 million and an economic output of £18 billion per year, with an ever-increasing international standing. It has the youngest profile of any European city with over a third of the population under 24 years of age and has the second most ethnically diverse population in Europe.

History of Centenary Square

By the end of the 18th century many towns in England were undergoing transformation. The area where Centenary Square is today was cleared of its insanitary housing and underwent an industrial transformation. Easy Hill House, workshops and gardens which were designed by John Baskerville in the general area of where Baskerville house now stands was purchased by Gibson, an iron merchant.

Gibson purchased Baskerville House to enable him to cut a canal arm to provide access to the main canal and increase his mill business on Cambridge Street. The canal was completed by 1825. This in turn encouraged the expansion of other businesses in the area and resulted in other arms linking the canal being created. These new wharves were soon covered over and enclosed with industrial buildings. This area between Broad Street, Easy Row, King Alfred's Place and Baskerville Passage was transformed from a mainly residential area to an area of industry.

Bingley House, which was built in 1760, was cleared to allow for the creation of a railway tunnel which runs under the site and is known as the New Street North tunnel.

The city council purchased the surrounding land in 1919 to create a new civic centre. In 1925 Baskerville basin was in-filled to facilitate the building of this new centre and the Hall of Memory was built in remembrance of the soldiers who had died in World War One. By 1926 the majority of the land had been cleared to allow for the entire square to be filled with civic buildings, including a city hall and two public halls, a planetarium, a library, museum and art gallery. The city council organised a design competition to facilitate their vision but unfortunately the only building to be built as part of this winning scheme was Baskerville House which was completed in 1941; the design of which makes reference to the architecture of the Hall of Memory.

Bingley Hall, which was built in 1850 and used as a multi-purpose venue for the city of Birmingham and Midland counties, was damaged by a fire in 1984. The city council used this as an opportunity to develop a large International Conference Centre and Symphony Hall on the south west edge of the site. Along with the demolition of Bingley Hall the city council also demolished St Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Powell's saw mills and timber yards and the Prince of Wales theatre between the square and the canal, to create the site for the International Convention Centre.

To complement the International Convention Centre, the square was redeveloped in 1989 including the construction of Centenary Way: the first bridge to stretch across the Inner Ring Road. This created an uninterrupted pedestrian route from the city centre to the centenary square. A colonnade, which had been built as part of the Hall of Memory was removed and relocated elsewhere in the city. The Hall of Memory was retained giving the space a strong sense of historical continuity. Two artists, Tess Jaray and Tom Lomax had integral roles in the development of the square. Jaray was involved in the design of the new surface of the square which included 525,000 pavers to be laid out similar to a Persian Carpet. Tom Lomax designed a fountain which has since been removed. The square was re-named Centenary Square in celebration of Birmingham's hundred years' status as a city.

Big City Plan

Designers should consider the aspirations of the Big City Plan which was launched by Birmingham City Council in September 2010. This plan is the council's 20 year vision for Birmingham's City Centre, supporting transformational change to create a world class city centre delivering sustainable growth, improved connectivity, authentic character, environmental quality, new residential communities and a diversified economic base. Covering an area of 800 hectares at the centre of the city, the Big City Plan provides the vision, strategy and principles to guide the future development and regeneration of the City Centre.

One of the key aims of the Big City Plan is to improve the walking and cycling routes and open space network within the city. New and improved routes with pedestrian and cycle priority is central to the council's aim to create a more sustainable city centre that is a more attractive place in which to live and work. Within the city centre there are a series of distinctive public and civic spaces along a pedestrian spine; Centenary Square is part of this series of spaces.

In association with


Competition Contact

The competition is being administered by RIBA Competitions, to whom any enquiries relating
to the general conditions of this competition should be addressed.


    0113 203 1490