Birmingham’s Transformed CBSO Centre

Alice Wilkes
The CBSO Centre is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), providing performance, rehearsal and meeting facilities.

Built in 1998 to complement the performance facilities at Symphony Hall, the CBSO Centre is the home of the CBSO, its sister organisation Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Ex Cathedra. After 15 years at the heart of the city’s cultural life, the central Birmingham building and its infrastructure had become outdated and expensive to maintain. To improve the facility and reduce occupation costs, an extensive refurbishment programmen was planned, including upgrade of building services to reduce energy consumption.

Faithful+Gould was delighted to be appointed by CBSO as cost and commercial managers for the c£1.3m construction budget. We had also worked on the original construction in 1998, and the new project saw us reunited with the original designers Associated Architects. This was a fast-track project, with the works scheduled during the orchestra's June-September holiday and summer tour dates, and completion in time for October rehearsal hall bookings.

...excellent teamwork ensured that the project finished on time and within budget.

The short contract period presented considerable risks to the schedule, and our commercial management skills were critical to the programme’s success. Challenges along the way included the discovery of nesting magpies on the Holliday Street façade at the beginning of the construction period. This delayed the removal of the external glazing and threatened to prevent the timely completion and royal re-opening launch. However excellent teamwork ensured that the project finished on time and within budget.

Our regular cost reports to the client kept them fully informed, and separate budget meetings with both the client and the designer ensured that any cost impacts were monitored and mitigated.

Part funded by the Arts Council England in parallel with independent match fundraising, this was a multiple stakeholder project. Our role ensured that best value was achieved, guiding the client towards appropriate yet affordable quality on a constrained budget. This required excellent communication and negotiation skills, to secure the input and balance the different needs of various parties.

The main entrance and reception area have been transformed, to provide lively and interactive spaces, and the rehearsal hall has a new acoustic canopy and lighting to improve the quality of concerts and rehearsals. Event and meeting spaces have also been improved. Building fabric and energy saving measures will reduce the Centre’s energy consumption and costs.

In another return to its roots, the redeveloped CBSO Centre was officially reopened in October 2014 by the CBSO’s patron, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who had originally opened the building in 1998.

Faithful+Gould has a strong arts and heritage portfolio, with recent Midlands appointments including the Birmingham Conservatoire at Birmingham City University, and the University of Wolverhampton Performance Hub.

Further afield our recent UK experience includes the William Morris Gallery, the Imperial War Museum and The Beaney Institute. Our global list also comprises many notable projects, such as the Getty Center, Los Angeles; the King Abdulaziz Centre for Knowledge & Culture, Saudi Arabia, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens.

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