marks barfield architects: factory, birmingham marks barfield architects: factory, birmingham
mar 10, 2010

marks barfield architects: factory, birmingham

‘myplace’ by mark barfield architects all images courtesy mark barfield architects




longbridge in birmingham, once the site of the largest manufacturing plant in the world, could be transformed into a new place for young people through the myplace initiative, a multi-million pound government program. the aim of myplace is to design, in partnership with the young people who will use them,  world class facilities to help them make the most of their free time and to deliver them throughout the UK.


the factory design concept was developed by steven chilton of marks barfield architects (MBA), creators of the london eye. supported by the sorrell foundation, MBA worked on the myplace bid alongside pete dewar and jonathan hubbard of international branding consultancy interbrand. together, they engaged with a dynamic group of nine local young people aged 13-17 in the birmingham area who were given the role of the client on the project. in the course of a series of workshops, inspirational visits and meetings, the ‘client’ identified and agreed the priorities for the architecture and branding of their centre before presenting the final concepts to their bid teams and stakeholders.


the history of longbridge is dominated by its industrial past. It is most notable for the production of cars, perhaps the most celebrated being the iconic austin mini. the similarities between manufacturing plants and the client’s aspirations for the building became apparent early on in the development process. as a result, there was a consensus to develop a concept for the 2000m sq space based around the factory’s historical associations.


the many design references to the heritage of the site include the window pattern on the main facades which was inspired by an aerial photo of hundreds of newly manufactured mini cars. the materials proposed – including concrete floors, colour coded for each level, plywood clad internal walls, exposed services – are hard wearing, utilitarian and have an industrial aesthetic. they are also well suited to the facility’s planned uses –performance/sports space, dance, multimedia, café and welfare facilities, recording and TV production studios .


the engineers adams kara taylor have developed an innovative structural solution for the perforated main facade: acrylic blocks are cast directly into the fibre reinforced concrete wall.

ground floor

first floor

second floor

third floor

multimedia room

reception area

reception area

structural concept

structure acrylic blocks

analysis of stresses

  • gosh, this is really awful

    sorry says:
  • I really like it, its brutal but the ‘factory’ shape makes it feel quite fun

    Marie says:
  • What a hideous shape. Why echo a 19th century factory? And the skin is ridiculous, no matter how structurally inventive. But can’t expect any better when teenagers in focus-group form are the client.

    Tom P says:

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