Selfridges Birmingham

Restoring an iconic façade 

Selfridges, at the heart of Birmingham’s Bullring, is one of the UK’s most distinctive retail buildings. With its sinuous curves and carapace of domed anodised aluminium tiles. Originally built at the turn of the millennium, the flagship department store is a key attraction in one of the country’s top shopping destinations.

In 2020, Hammerson – which owns the Bullring and adjacent Grand Central complexes – contracted BAM to restore the unique tile-clad exterior to its full glory, while also installing high-specification insulation.

The project was delivered on time and to budget, despite the challenges of Covid-19 and the need to maintain ‘business as usual’ both within Selfridges itself and in the busy surrounding road network.

Project details

  • Customer: Hammerson PLC
  • Architects: Scott Brownrigg
  • Cost consultant: Gleeds
  • 3D scanning and modelling: MSA 
  • Scaffolding: Midland Scaffold Service

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16,000 Fact icon aluminium discs restored
Largest Fact icon scaffolding structure in Europe
24/7 access Fact icon maintained to bus stops
Ahead of the showcase 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, BAM refurbished the exterior of the Selfridges department store: overseeing the removal and refinishing of every single individual tile and the fitting of a new layer of high-performance insulation. 


On a complex project like this, planning is everything. The two most important elements of the project were the façade works and the scaffolding. So for BAM, the financial security and vetting of the contractors for both aspects was vital. The methodologies for both tasks were carefully honed and agreed with the client team. 

A unique 3D jigsaw 

The two most important packages on the project were the scaffolding and the façade works. So BAM focused in particular on the vetting and financial surety of the contractors and their methodologies: a process agreed jointly with the client team. 

For example, modern point cloud techniques enabled the BAM team to work more efficiently on the details of the round discs that make up the cladding. 

Architectural metalwork specialists, Structural Stairways – who carried out the removal and replacement of the discs – used QR codes to number and record the each one, ensuring that it was painstakingly re-installed in its original location after refurbishment. No mean feat when almost 16,000 tiles were involved.

Business as usual

Construction is inevitably intrusive to some extent. But disruption has to be minimised when working so close to the general public and nearby businesses. Throughout this project, the pavements around the store as well as the footbridge across from a multi-story car park had to be accessible at all times. 

BAM’s solution involved several coordinated approaches. Every week, a meeting with 30 or so stakeholders explored whether any works and site activities in the coming fortnight needed to be adapted. For instance, over the Christmas period there were changes to fit in with longer store opening hours. 

Before the project began on site, the team carried out initial ‘sample’ works to demonstrate all the working methods that would be used for demolition, removing the tiles, erecting scaffolding and reinstalling the façade. 

An acoustician monitored and recorded noise levels, both internally and externally, with both the client and the store manager attending these demonstrations. As a result, BAM adapted some activities to deliver the project with minimum disruption.

For example, the impact wrenches usually used to install scaffolding turned out to be too noisy inside the store, so the team reverted to traditional scaffold spanners instead.

During the live project, 18 noise and vibration monitors installed inside Selfridges automatically alerted the BAM project managers, so they could react quickly to address any problems before they actually disturbed employees or customers.

Traffic flows

The team scheduled work on the lower levels of the building exterior out of hours wherever possible, to avoid impacting the public.

Next to Selfridges, the Moor Street bus stops are the busiest in the Midlands. Understandably, Birmingham City Council and National Express didn’t want the works to affect their day-to-day operations. Close co-operation and planning with both organisations was key in achieving this.

The scaffolding design not only had to create an aesthetically pleasing solution, but also needed to provide clear and safe access to the bus stops 24 hours a day.  Also, BAM wasn’t able to take possession of any adjacent roadways apart from a single drop-off point. So all deliveries to the site had to be carefully scheduled. 

The ultimate designer outfit…

Construction sites are not the usually the most aesthetically pleasing sights. But both the client and their tenant saw the refurbishment as a unique opportunity to create drama and focus media attention on what is, after all, a design-led store.

With this in mind, they commissioned the world’s largest canvas wrap for the building, to hide the on-going works. The fabric envelope was created by Birmingham born multi-disciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada. 

Specialist firm Embrace Building Wraps carried out the record-breaking installation, working closely with BAM and scaffolding contractor Midland Scaffold Services.

After the project, nothing went to waste: the five tonnes of printed canvas was repurposed as waterproof covers for agriculture through the National Farmers Union, as an alternative to tarpaulins.

The fabric envelope was created by Birmingham born multi-disciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada.
“I’m delighted to have finally had the chance to work with BAM, as I have been trying to do so for years. I have been extremely impressed with their detailed response on the Selfridges tender and this has followed through with their work and approach on site. The project team are very easy to get on with and we have established a good working relationship quickly.” 

Stephen Marshall

Executive Director, Hammerson