The “Bird Box”, designed by ONE Creative environments (ONE), has transformed an unattractive and derelict site in the town centre of Bromsgrove into a vibrant temporary public realm and mixed-use community destination. 

The Bird Box has used an imaginative approach to deliver a modern twist on an attractive leafy, green environment that is a breath of fresh air, enhances the ambiance of surrounding businesses and rejuvenates the previously derelict space into a fun location designed for flexibility. It can host large community events, has locations for ‘pop-up’ and mobile businesses, a stage for performances and most importantly is a space for the community to come and relax, enjoy and socialise.

The site has been unused for years following the demolition of the Market Hall and with hoarding around its perimeter, it attracted antisocial behaviour. Following a failed attempt to build on the site, local councillors campaigned to use the developer’s retainer to invest in the site and bring it back into public use. A stakeholder and public consultation process helped develop the brief and get the community excited about its potential. 

Named after the features carved into neighbouring shopfronts and for its support of ‘fledgling’ businesses, the Bird Box is now a busy destination in the town centre with a calendar of events scheduled for the year. It is a colourful, modern and active space that attracts people of all ages. 

The design team, the client and the local contractors all aspired to deliver a project of quality, and everyone went above and beyond to make it happen. The tight budget of £210k was a challenge but with a feeling that the Bird Box is for the “greater good”, all parties have gone the extra mile to drive the project forward and ensure quality was delivered.

Off the shelf street furniture was not affordable, therefore, the design team used their imagination designing bespoke seating built from blockwork and artificial turf (which are always in use) and planters made from gabion baskets on the site’s perimeter also act as vehicle barriers. Bold graphics of birds and feathers on the fencing and the paving have given the space an identity and there would have been no trees on the site but for the support of the local landscape contractor who has loaned the project large containers. 

The client’s environmental aspirations resulted in almost everything on the brownfield site being reused including block paving, aggregate and timber from felled trees. The existing surfacing and building foundation were retained and surfaced over to make the site safe and accessible while many of the recycled materials can be seen in the facing of gabion baskets. 

The Bird Box was community driven with the client employing a local design team and local contractors who all had the ambition to deliver a great project for their community and ONE sourced local suppliers for the fencing and flooring graphics.

Construction was completed and it was opened to the public in spring 2020 and now supports local businesses and mobile traders who can set up on the site. The timing coincided with lockdown and has provided a lifeline to the High Street and local economy during COVID-19. It provided locations for local traders to set up and outdoor seating areas for restaurants and cafés to support social distancing.

Cllr Philip Thomas said “This council wanted to support our traders in the hospitality trade who, because their premises are too small, cannot operate within the current social distance guidance.”

The site is flexible and can adapt to future changes. Mature trees are in movable containers so that large events can take place, there is an open space sized to accommodate a marquee or temporary ice rink and there are plots where mobile businesses can hook up to power. Scattered lighting through the trees and in key locations extends the use of the site into the evening. 

The space has been popular and busy since it opened. A calendar of activities and events took place at The Bird Box last year including the town Christmas tree and light switch on, music events and community days. A new schedule of events is due to take place in 2022 with the council being guided by feedback from the public engagement.

The client has been delighted with the legacy the Bird Box has provided and they are particularly proud of how it is supporting local businesses. Jane Berry the Regeneration Officer at NWedR says that “Since opening and between lockdown restrictions, the Bird Box has seen great footfall, supported local businesses and provided a vibrant social space for local people. It has been very positive for the town.”

The Bird Box deserves recognition because it was conceived, designed and constructed by local people and local businesses. Everyone involved was invested in delivering the best possible project and this is reflected in quality of the space, delivered on a shoestring budget and by the care for the space and its use by the community.

Project Location: Windsor Street, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, UK

Design year: 2020

Year Built: 2020

Budget: £210,000

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