University of Birmingham - The Green Heart
Civic Trust Awards
Level of Award
Local Authority Area
Information about this scheme
The Green Heart project celebrates both the legacy and the future of the University of Birmingham campus. The original axiality imposed by founder Joseph Chamberlain’s 1900s clocktower has been re-established, having been denied for the last half century by the insertion in the 1950’s of the Verner O’Rees Library.
By replacing this building with a new fit for purpose Library, the University have released 5 hectares of previously underutilized external space at the heart of their campus, taking the radical decision to maintain this new piece of public realm free of buildings so it can become the centrepiece of their learning environment. In doing so the University has provided a more fittingly impressive setting for its other notable buildings.
The inherited 8 metre level change is used as a defining feature which employs topographic features as an opportunity to reinforce the offer of the space. However, this significant level change has represented a challenge for inclusive movement.
The Churchman proposal cleverly works with this level and installs a new inclined path as a principle highway around the new Green Heart. An inherited single storey substation which had to be retained provided another fixed point within the design. Linking Muirhead’s podium with the substation roof by inserting a new bridge provides a smart device which fully integrates these inherited datums as a series of stepping stones between which one can now freely move. It is a space in which to study, relax and celebrate but most importantly a space in which to dwell and converse, providing common ground and a valuable extension to the learning environment. With full wifi coverage every sq cm can be used as an academic space.
Collaborating with Lighting specialists a perpetual learning environment has been created which allows students to work and relax outdoors at all times and in all seasons. High levels of illumination are achieved using discretely located fittings hidden under benches and within planters, pacing the pool of light where it is needed.
The result is a subtly detailed high- quality environment as the centre piece and talking point of the campus.
Churchman Thornhill Finch
University of Birmingham
Couch Perry Wilkes
Speirs + Major
Bramhall 1840 Ltd
Primary Use Class
Class D1c - Education