Birmingham University Green Heart

The talking point of the campus

Winner - RTPI West Midlands Award for Planning Excellence

We re-imagined this historic red brick campus as social hub and outdoor classroom, all enabled by the latest tech.

Here, staff and students are encouraged to meet, allowing inspiration to strike - and creating a fertile seedbed of the imagination.

 

Realising our vision for maximum social connection required a careful balance between respecting the old while embracing the new.

We re-established the historic formal axis between the iconic clock tower and surrounding buildings - made possible by the demolition of a poorly placed library. A series of external ‘rooms’ extend off the central walkway. Here are spaces to meet and mingle, to study and teach, to chat over a cup tea or come up with the next big thing.

A geometry of connections criss-cross the central spine, while significant level changes create opportunities for a 3D landscape of artfully sculpted earthworks and elegant bridges, allowing students to move easily - over, through and across.

While our approach respectfully tips its cap to the university’s proud red-brick past, a closer look reveals a host of future-facing details. This is a digitally enabled landscape encouraging connection in virtual and physical space.

Smart outdoor furniture allows students to plug in and switch on, while innovative paving generates energy through footfall. A lighting scheme both beautiful and efficient opens up the outdoors at all hours.

Of course looking to the future doesn’t just mean embracing clever tech. It calls for a careful shepherding of resources - a landscape that can harness our increasingly erratic weather. Our intelligent water design slows runoff during heavy rains,filtering and retaining water, while also putting it to work irrigating the softly planted rain gardens.

Our forward-thinking approach has led to an inspiring collaboration between designers and academics, with Churchman Thornhill Finch now working with the University on innovative ways to improve air quality on campus. It’s an inspiring model for the future - a landscape that doubles as an incubator of progressive new ideas.

Haarkon images (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
Haarkon images (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
Haarkon images (Churchman Thornhill Finch)
Haarkon images (Churchman Thornhill Finch)

"Design is about more than aesthetics, we're creating something far richer - landscapes that focus on social connection, sustainability and creating a sense of wellbeing."