The Mailbox

Associated Architects, Birmingham, 2000


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The canal with footbridge and cone-shaped node 

Martine Hamilton Knight (website)     Download Original

  • The canal with footbridge and cone-shaped node    
  • The Mailbox Square entrance    
  • A new open air street was created through the middle of the existing building    
  • Birmingham has trailed behind Manchester and Leeds in the inner-city living phenomenon, but Mailbox    
  • Part of the canal has been excavated. The lift and staircase to the graceful metal footbridge are housed in a blue-brick cone-shaped     
  • Office space in the former sorting office    
  • Site plan    
  • Lower ground floor plan    
  • Upper ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Second floor plan    
  • Fourth floor plan    
  • Section    
  • An early computer rendering showing the project in context - the overall concept remains largely unchanged    
  • Footbridge and access node details    
  • Footbridge details    

Redevelopment of a former Royal Mail parcel and letter sorting office in Birmingham city centre into a mixed use scheme with internal street

A major regeneration project providing a mix of uses within 150,000m2 of floor space, comprising two hotels, 16 restaurants and bars, 200 roof-level apartments, BBC Studios, offices, shops, a 1,000-space car park and more.

The idea of making the Mailbox a route rather than a destination is central to the scheme. A street has been cut straight through the building’s length, creating a coherent canal based circuit for pedestrians and tourists, which is open 24 hours a day.

Externally, the building is treated simply. The red rendered Mailbox Square elevation is the most radically remodelled, where graded steps address the changes in level in front of the building and provide piazzas and landscaped areas.

Internally, the street is broken into small-scale elements with different treatments reflecting the different uses. Detail is more sophisticated than in the exterior, the huge grid is resolved in more varied ways and the height controlled to echo the scale and character of a typical urban street.

Aiming to be a catalyst for the regeneration of a substantial city quarter, the scheme incorporates two public art projects, and part of the canal has been excavated with a new bridge and cone-shaped tower built to house a lift and staircase.


  • Begun: Aug 1999
  • Completed: 2000
  • Floor area: 102,292m2
  • Sectors: Hotel, Office, Public realm, Residential, Retail
  • Total cost: £38.1M
  • Tender date: Aug 1998
  • Procurement: JCT with Contractor's Design
  • Address: The Mailbox, 5 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RF, United Kingdom

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