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Designing for Health and Wellbeing at Digbeth

We're providing more diversity to building uses as well as community focussed activities within the public realm.


As the Project Landscape Architect for Digbeth, I have been passionate about ensuring Studio Egret West's framework for this community places health and wellbeing at the forefront. Whilst Digbeth has a unique and special character, as well as many positive qualities, in its current condition, it is dominated by the presence of cars, it can be difficult to navigate, many of the former industrial buildings are in need of repair, the River Rea is unloved and polluted, and there is little public space away from roads for people to use. Our framework design aims to resolve these issues whilst retaining Digbeth’s unique character, making Digbeth into a place that people enjoy living, working and spending time in. To achieve this ambition, the following themes have been developed with health and wellbeing in mind.

Increased public space

Digbeth currently has few public spaces for people to spend time, go on their lunch break, play and exercise, or visit at the weekend. The landscape and public realm strategy aims to create a number of new public spaces, each with different characteristics and qualities. These include the transformation of the Duddeston Viaduct into an elevated planted park away from the roads below, activated arches under Bordesley Viaduct, public spaces along an enhanced River Rea and Grand Union Canal, and a distinct series of new and existing courtyards.

Viaduct Park Axo

Pedestrian and cycle priority and new connections

Two key routes, crossing the site from east to west and north to south, will mark the heart of the development. These routes will improve permeability and provide connections to future transport nodes, and improved access to the canal towpath, while also offering a vibrant streetscape. These key routes will prioritise pedestrian movements and encourage ground floor activities to spill out into the public space. A variety of ground floor uses will be proposed to provide activity throughout the day while improved street lighting will create a safe environment by night. Car parking will be minimised on these routes while trees planting and sustainable urban drainage will be introduced to give these streets a character more suitable to pedestrians and cyclists.

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Increased connection to nature

Access to nature has well document positive impacts on mental health, as well as helping to mitigate pollution and noise from vehicles. Digbeth has historically not had a great deal of planting within its public realm. The design proposals of the strategic framework respect this important characteristic by focusing planting in specific and appropriate locations. The most notable and generous opportunity to engage with nature is as part of the transformation of the Duddeston Viaduct into Viaduct Park. The disused viaduct has been a prominent yet undiscovered asset of Digbeth. Cutting through the site above the existing industrial units, the route has been overgrown by colonising trees, shrubs and low level planting. The transformation of this viaduct into a park starts by retaining and amplifying the existing planting as much as possible. Look out points, seating areas, access points and footpaths sit amongst the planting, allowing respite from the bustle of the streets below. Street planting is focused around the two main axis that cross the site in a north south and east west orientation, whilst focused areas of planting are proposed within the River Rea to help filter, clean and naturalise the riverbed.

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Active and playable public spaces

New homes are a key part of the strategic framework design. As a result of this, families and children will be living in Digbeth again. In order to provide the local facilities that these families require, and that are very much missing from Digbeth, play and exercise space has been proposed as part of the design. These facilities are generally integrated along Viaduct Park and in the ground level public spaces that connect to it.

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Vibrant mixed use neighbourhood

Our framework aims to create a mix of uses in Digbeth by introducing new homes, retail space and community uses to what has become a workspace dominated environment. By diversifying the uses within Digbeth, we aim to create a healthier neighbourhood where one can fulfil their daily needs with a 15 minute walk of where they live.

Digbeth already has a strong sense of identity and community. Feeling part of a community and identifying with a place is an important aspect of health and wellbeing. The design proposals aim to foster and build on this sense of community by retaining the existing community facilities currently found on-site, retaining and amplifying the existing character of Digbeth, providing more diversity to building uses in order to allow a greater variety of business and residents to move to Digbeth, providing community-focused activities within the public realm such as event spaces, growing’s spaces and space for play and exercise.”

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Designing for Health and Wellbeing at Digbeth