The development of a new home for Assay Office Birmingham (now under the umbrella of AnchorCert Group) has been an exciting stage in the Assay Office’s history and in the continued regeneration of the Jewellery Quarter. The Assay Office is one of Birmingham’s oldest institutions. It has a statutory duty to hallmark precious metals such as jewellery and silverware. It was founded in 1773 and was located in the previous Assay Office building on Newhall Street for 135 years. The Assay Office employs some 150 members of staff and has hallmarked over 100 million articles since 2000.
The Assay Office’s new home is located within the St George’s development, fronting Icknield Street. This site provides a prominent location for the new Assay Office at a gateway to the Jewellery Quarter.
The site is bounded by Icknield Street, Pope Street and Moreton Street, with its main frontage looking onto Icknield Street.
The development of the new Assay Office building marks the first stage of the development of the wider 2.75 hectare St George’s development, which is to be developed for a wide mix of uses. The development of the Assay Office building has been the first new-build project on the site and provides a significant boost to the regeneration of the remainder of the scheme.
Project Gateway is a landmark building marking the Western ‘gateway’ to the Jewellery Quarter and St George’s masterplan. The development was designed to respond to its location at this key frontage in the Jewellery Quarter, and respect its siting within the Conservation Area.
The new building is 2/3 storeys high, utilising the sloping nature of the site, and extends to circa 5,380 sq m. The environmentally friendly design is built to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standard and includes prominent facades culminating in a double height colonnaded entrance that addresses the neighbouring Kettleworks opposite. The building’s elevations to Pope Street and Moreton Street maintain the rhythm, character and civic presence of the principal Icknield Street entrance.
Use of high quality brickwork and detailing with full height glazing to all floors maximises natural daylight and ventilation whilst recognising the sensitive nature of activities carried out within the building. A traditional ‘blue’ brick reflects the heritage of the Conservation Area whilst differentiating the building from its immediate neighbours. Windows are set back, deep within the facade, in order to reduce solar gain and emphasise the buildings verticality.
The scheme includes an active mix of current Assay Office uses as well as providing substantial conference, training and cultural spaces that can exhibit current & historical material of Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter, including a new home for the Assay Office’s Collection of silver and historic reference texts.
The scheme comprises on-site car parking within a secure yard area. Visitors to the Assay Office should use existing on-street parking and may have the ability to park on-site by prior arrangement. A lay-by on Moreton Street provides a drop-off facility for customers adjacent to the trade entrance. Public access to the building is from Icknield Street frontage.
All the existing facilities in the previous Assay Office building, including the hallmarking operations, laboratories, gem certification and jewellery valuation services have been relocated to the new development, which provides much improved and more efficient facilities to ensure Assay Office Birmingham has a sustainable future."The Assay Office is our people, not our building. Our people are the best and we must give them the best. We are proud of our innovation, our integrity and our independence and we believe these will flourish even more successfully in an Assay Office fit for the future. We want to create a world class Centre of Excellence of which Birmingham can be proud. Our objective was that by 2014 we would be ready to face the next 100 years in a new building which is cleaner, greener and more accessible to everyone, and which fully reflects our heritage, our status and our ambition” - former Chairman Kay Alexander.
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