Eastside City Park

Birmingham City Council's Eastside City Park has won a steady stream of plaudits since it opened at the end of 2012.

Eastside City Park - all images: Patel Taylor
Eastside City Park - all images: Patel Taylor

The first new park to be created in the city for 130 years has been recognised with awards from the Landscape Institute, the British Association of Landscape Industries, the Royal Institute of British Architects and many, many other venerable institutions.

The project’s delivery was a significant achievement, taking 13 years in all to progress from idea to opening. More than £10m went into transforming the 3.2 hectare strip of land - including a former car park - in the Eastside regeneration area, into a world class green space and a beacon for the transformation of this quarter of the city. The park, which extends from Park Street Gardens past Millennium Point to Cardigan Street, provides an important link between the city centre and the Digbeth and Eastside areas of the city, providing much needed amenity and leisure space. It was also crucially intended to be a catalyst for regeneration and forms a key element in Birmingham City Council’s Big City Plan.

The design of the park, which provides 2.73 hectares of green space, was masterminded by London-based design practice of Patel Taylor, working with French landscape architect Allain Provost. The design team won the project following a two-stage international competition and public consultation.


The brief for the park was that it had to be an innovative, inviting and inspirational space, which would set the standard for surrounding development. The design strategy was to create a sequence of defined spaces with a logical route between them. The park can be enjoyed by strolling its length or as a pleasant pass-through route across its width. The long stroll takes walkers along a 370m main spine path, which links to eastern and western lawns and an event space - City Park Square. The open spaces are flanked by steel and precast concrete structures, groups of trees and formal planting. Smaller spaces within these edges provide enclosures for those seeking quiet contemplation.

Key features of the park include:

•    A 190m long canal water feature
•    A public square with 21 jet fountains
•    More than 300 semi-mature trees
•    A 2500 sq m wildflower meadow
•    Some 17,000 locally sourced shrubs
•    More than 200 linear metres of hedging
•    Sculptures, as well as steel and concrete structures
•    Some 100 bespoke timber and metal framed benches
•    Cycle routes and racks
•    Green roof systems on a canopy and kiosk

The park also incorporates the Science Garden, an outdoor discovery space and outdoor classroom created by Gillespies for Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. The museum is located alongside the park.

Key outcomes

•    The park now features in Birmingham City Council’s Active Parks sports and wellbeing programme, which encourages people to engage in outdoor activities ranging from boules and gardening

•    The park has its own community group, Friends of Eastside City Park, which won a £9,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. The funding is intended to help increase awareness of the park through measures including new signage and games equipment including a giant chess set.

Key lessons

Birmingham City Council has noted these lessons from its park development model:
•    Set a clear vision, which is supported by residents, developers, planners and politicians
•    Invest in a project that will benefit everybody and will attract developers and funders
•    Develop the design in public, ensuring you have total buy-in
•    Engage a partnership contractor at design development stage and include building efficiency in the design
•    At design stage include the maintenance team to advise on efficient maintenance design.
Patel Taylor’s key learning points are:
•    As a starting point, considering the park on a city scale was vital. Connections to the surrounding urban grain established the structure of the park and the sequence of spaces. The soft landscape components were inserted into this structure to reinforce the urban principles
•    Consideration of the city scale had to be done for two states of completion for the Eastside Quarter: firstly, at the point of completion of the park, when many of the surrounding regeneration plots were vacant or under construction; and secondly, with all sites complete. The latter is easier because there is a stronger reciprocal relationship between the buildings and the public spaces. However, in the first instance, many edges to the park were ill defined, so the designer decided to make the form of the park very strong to compensate. During the design process, the designer received a number of comments questioning the strong geometry, suggesting that softer forms would be more 'park-like'. In retrospect, the geometry has worked very well, and the park has a very clean an urban feel
•    Clear definition of the major spaces has worked well and they are used intensively. Equally important though are the smaller spaces - places for individuals or small groups to retreat to. For example, benches set to the side of the main spine path are set within a wide planting bed, and have structures for climbing plants to give variety in terms of colour and aroma. The grids of pleached hornbeams have also created playful opportunities for inhabitation.

     Project team            
Client Birmingham City Council
Architect/designer Patel Taylor
Landscape architect Allain Provost
Landscape designer Applied Landscape Design

Project manager, cost consultant,
inclusive design consultant

Services and structural engineer Arup
Main contractor  Wates Construction

This case study is from Horticulture Week's Landscape4Places campaign hub. Landscape4Places is a new campaign which seeks to highlight the contribution of quality landscaping to great placemaking. For more on the campaign, go to www.horticultureweek.co.uk/landscape-for-places

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