Make’s headquarter building for HSBC opens at Arena Central in Birmingham

Make has completed work on a major new office building in central Birmingham for HSBC UK’s first headquarters outside London.

Delivered on behalf of Arena Central Developments LLP (ACDL), 1 Centenary Square is home to 2,500 employees from the retail banking arm of the global conglomerate.

This is the first plot to be delivered on the Make-designed Arena Central masterplan, which occupies the 9 acre site that was formerly home to the city’s Central Independent Television studios. Multiple buildings are now in various stages of planning and construction.


1 Centenary Square is located between Seifert’s Alpha Tower and Thomas Cecil Howitt’s 1930s Municipal Bank, both Grade II-listed, and faces Centenary Square and Mecanoo’s new Library of Birmingham. With such a mixture of landmark architecture in the area, the building is deliberately deferential in style to its neighbours, influenced in scale and materiality but not competing for attention.

In scale, plan and character the three-level building mediates between the low and high levels of its neighbours. Facing the bank and Centenary Square, the building is 7 storeys high, stepping back to 10 storeys and then again to 12. At the same time, the building twists out in orientation towards Alpha Tower.

As the building pivots, so too does the depth of cladding, which is formed of a woven glass-reinforced concrete that replicates the tone, texture and civic nature of the Portland stone that clads many of the nearby heritage buildings on Centenary Square.


The distinct elevations respond to their locations accordingly: towards Centenary Square the building portrays a very formal, orthogonal civic facade with a triple-height portico to relate to the 1930s bank. To the east the slightly chamfered elevation reflects and respects the vertical sheerness of Alpha Tower, while to the south-west the weave becomes much more articulated and playful, stepping back down in scale to provide a more people-friendly face to a new pedestrianised square, Bank Court, which forms the heart of the Arena Central site. A second entrance into the building is located here.

Greg Willis said: “We’ve been working with ACDL since 2007. It is a prime site on the boundary of the civic quarter and at the heart of the city. The letting to HSBC has been crucial for the city’s latest reinvention, and it is wonderful to see such an important building for the city open its doors.

“We’ve used materials that echo the civic quarter’s Portland Stone buildings in a modern way. The weave announces the building without overstating its presence and also helps to break down the mass of such a large plot.

“The new Bank Court square will be a great amenity for the area. Once further plots are delivered – we are currently on site with HMRC’s new Birmingham home at 3 Arena Central and have just secured planning for The Exchange for University of Birmingham, which is moving into the Grade II-listed Municipal Bank – we expect this to be a hub of activity, transforming the site and knitting it into the wider context, allowing people to cross the site for the first time.”


The 8.9m high reception is deliberately grand in scale with a jesmonite wall that echoes the weave on the external detailing. The interior fit-out, designed by tp bennett was tailored to suit the needs of HSBC’s new ring-fenced bank. The building needed to accommodate a combination of spaces including workplace, client meeting suite, staff restaurant, cafe, HSBC university training facility, and a staff fitness centre.

A key priority for tp bennett was to create a unique identity for the new HSBC UK headquarters and provide a workspace designed for staff wellbeing.

To enhance connectivity between the various facilities and teams within the building tp bennett introduced an 11-story feature staircase within the building atrium.

The building has secured Birmingham’s first ever LEED Gold rating. This ranks it as one of Birmingham’s most sustainable office buildings, thanks in part to the materials selected which optimise energy performance, certified wood and materials with a high recycled content. There are also 300 sq m brown roofs on Level 7 and 10, and energy-efficient MEP systems.

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