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Birmingham shows off shimmering future

Future Systems has unveiled these plans of the landmark Selfridges department store it wants to build as part of Birmingham's new-look £800 million Bull Ring Centre.

The curvaceous 24,000m2 scheme for the Birmingham Alliance, a developers partnership, ranges across five storeys and includes a new public garden and restaurant on its roofscape, where glass elements allow daylight into an atrium like an 'urban canyon.' Selfridges is investing £40 million in the scheme.

Future Systems' Jan Kaplicky said the intention is to 'clad' the building in thousands of light blue ceramic discs, each of around 600mm diameter, as a skin, wrapping around double curved surfaces to emphasis its three dimensional nature. This, he said, had been inspired by a Paco Rabane dress - which will probably be on sale inside when the store is completed in September 2003. That is, if it gets planning permission. Kaplicky said the scheme had been shown to planners already and they have broadly welcomed it, although the setting of the nearby St Martin's Church may prove to be important.

'[Selfridges] were talking about Bilbao and bringing something unusual north of London,' said Kaplicky. 'It's fascinating to build something in an environment which has been neglected for so many years. But it has to be quality - it shouldn't be just something left over because it's not in London.'

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