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Thu September 23 2021

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Green light for Aston's lantern

6 Aug Plans for a 10-storey landmark building to provide working and teaching space at Aston University have been approved by Birmingham City Council.

Image copyright Hawkins Brown
Image copyright Hawkins Brown

The building represents the first stage of Aston University’s campus revamp plan.

The ground floor will be open to the public. Upper floors will be for teaching facilities and academic workspace. This includes flexible lecture theatres, seminar rooms and study spaces.

Hawkins Brown was appointed to design the building following a competition in 2019 and leads a consultant team that includes Price & Myers, Hoare Lea and Ridge & Partners.

Aston University’s brief was for a new building at the heart of its campus in central Birmingham that would act as a destination to draw people into the campus, capitalising on new and existing transport links as the university reconsidered its connections to the surrounding city through a new masterplan.

Hawkins Brown’s design includes a civic plinth at ground level with a lantern-like pavilion above. The plinth addresses the surrounding campus and public realm and is wrapped in a colonnade formed of pigmented precast concrete, with full height glazing that allows views into and out of the public facing functions.

The upper pavilion is a glazed lantern designed to present a distinctive silhouette within the skyline of Birmingham, particularly when lit at night. The sawtooth form of the pavilion facade is used to control heat gains into the building and facilitate natural ventilation, reducing energy use.

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On the ground floor the building is public-facing, with facilities including a café. A tiered lecture theatre is at one end of the central public arcade. This space incorporates a feature ‘performance stair’ offering a flexible area for lectures and presentations that are open to all. Mid-level floors are occupied by flexible teaching spaces, and student and social study areas, whilst the upper floors are dedicated to university staff and workspaces. An atrium rises through the height of the building, forming the primary circulation.

Hawkins Brown partner Tom Noonan said: “This landmark building will serve as a dynamic new front door to Aston University’s campus – an interface between the university and the wider city. It is designed as a building of two halves: civic uses are provided in the lower section which opens out onto a landscaped plaza, enabling new public routes to emerging districts such as Birmingham's knowledge quarter.

“Above this plinth is a more playful ‘lantern’ which contains learning spaces and academic offices. The dynamic and visually striking lantern offers roof terraces where the floorplates shift and is designed to deliver new types of flexible spaces for the university well into the future.”

Ian Oldacre, director of estates at Aston University said: “Our ambitious campus vision sets out our aspiration to invest significantly in the delivery of a ‘destination campus’ to meet the changing demands and opportunities faced by universities.

“Aston University’s future growth will embrace evolving trends such as online and remote learning, greater connectivity, the growth in international students and closer collaboration with commercial partners and the business community.

“This new landmark building represents the first stage of our masterplan and long-term strategy. We have worked closely with our partners at Birmingham City Council to develop a building of iconic status, not only for Aston University, but for the city of Birmingham.”

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