Selfridges looks to Milan

on Apr 07 in Uncategorized by

We’ve been helping design aficionados at the Selfridges store in Birmingham to understand why Birmingham and Milan are sister cities.

The roof of Milan Cathedral

Both have a proud industrial heritage and a historic reputation for design excellence.

In the Victorian period Birmingham played a key role in the birth of the international Arts and Crafts movement, which influenced the design of buildings around the world.

Britain’s first municipal School of Art was built in Birmingham on Margaret Street, the current building dating from 1885 continues to serve its original use. The school was a leading centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Birmingham School of Art, initiated 1843, current building by J. H. Chamberlain, 1884/5

The pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was from Birmingham. His stunning stained glass windows can be seen in Birmingham’s St Philip’s Cathedral.

Edward Burne-Jones window, Birmingham Cathedral

Stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones, Birmingham Cathedral.

The Gothic Revival architect Augustus Pugin, whose life story is told in Palace of Pugin, worked with craftsmen in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter to make the interior fittings for the Houses of Parliament. The Jewellery Quarter remains a centre of excellence for craftsmanship and design.

Milan draws much of its kerb-appeal from the quality of the spaces in between (and on top of) its buildings.

The book Revival in the Square shows how Birmingham has been catching up by dismantling its 1960s inner ring road and investing in traditional streets and squares.

The new connection with St Martin’s

The 1960s concrete Bull Ring has gone and a new street reconnects St Martin’s Church and its ancient market square with the city centre. Henry II granted the first official market charter for this square in 1154.

Birmingham has adopted a Big City Plan to pave its way to prosperity with interconnected streets and squares, of the kind enjoyed by its Italian sister.

It’s part of the reason why Selfridges and Harvey Nichols have been attracted to Birmingham.

Milan Cathedral’s roof, an interconnected public space and inspiration for Birmingham to demolish its 1960s subways.



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