Design for Hawkins\Brown’s Aston University Building Approved

Hawkins\Brown has been awarded planning approval by Birmingham City Council for a new 12,000 m² (GIA) university building for Aston University. The ten-storey building will create a new high-quality landmark as the University refreshes its central Birmingham campus with a significant and impactful masterplan.

The ground floor will be open to the university community and public alike. A generous new ground floor arcade, with social spaces and a café, will provide spaces to relax, socialise and connect with the new landscaped public realm. The new building will create important opportunities for the university to come together with the local community.

On the upper floors, the building will incorporate world class teaching and learning facilities, and academic workspace. This includes flexible lecture theatres, seminar rooms and inspirational study spaces for use by the whole university.

Tom Noonan, partner at Hawkins\Brown said:

“This landmark building will serve as a dynamic new front door to Aston’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 city of Birmingham.”

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 called 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 landmark 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 with a dynamic, playful form that presents 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.

On the ground floor the building is public-facing, with facilities that include a museum-style café with associated social seating and relaxation spaces. A large capacity tiered lecture theatre is located at one end of the central ‘public arcade’. This space incorporates a feature ‘performance stair’ which will offer a flexible area for social interaction. The stair will also double as an auditorium for evening 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.

A generous atrium rises through the height of the building, forming the primary circulation. Open, flexible spaces for social learning face onto the atrium, benefitting from natural ventilation, valuable daylight and direct access to external roof terraces to support sustainability and wellbeing.