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Birmingham seeks starchitect to design city skyscraper

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Birmingham Council has said an 'architect of international repute' is likely to be appointed to an ambitious 40-storey skyscraper scheme in the city.

Birmingham-based firm Kinetic AIU has drawn up an initial proposal for the tower (pictured), which will sit on the site of a listed fire station just off the city's famous Spaghetti Junction, and tenders from a shortlist of potential developers wishing to expand on the scheme are expected later this month.

But, Birmingham City Council (BCC) said that because of the 'sensitive' nature of the site, currently owned by the West Midlands Fire Service, any scheme 'will have to be of exceptional quality, probably by an architect of international repute'.

Kinetic AIU director Bob Ghosh said: 'The fire station has a unique triangular courtyard. The plan is for the tower to sit in the courtyard with the integrity of the surrounding buildings being retained. It is about design quality and proportion.

'We are in partnership with a developer but there is no guarantee that we will be retained. If one of the developers came up with an international architect, Birmingham City Council would probably go with them.

'That would be fine by us as we would have been part of the journey in bringing about a high-quality building,' Ghosh added.

BCC planning officer, Lesley Shelldrake, said the council wants a building that will 'mark the entrance to the city.' But she warned: 'The site [includes] a listed building and it is in a conservation area so it will be exceptionally difficult to develop satisfactorily.'

The winning tender will be selected late in the summer, and Ghosh said it may take up to a year to gain full planning permission. Construction is expected to take up to two-and-a-half years, with completion scheduled for 2011.

by Max Thompson

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