Conversion of former brewery
Heavily contaminated brownfield site
Winner of Three Regional RIBA Awards
Shortlisted for RIBA Reinvention Award
Providing space for over 1,200 students made up of undergraduate, post graduate and professional learners, as well as a staff of educational and research professionals. The School of Architecture and the Built Environment (SOABE), for the University of Wolverhampton is an 85,000 sq ft teaching and learning facility intended to have extended working hours to cater for all activities to be held within including professional & industry training.
Sitting on the former M&B Springfield Brewery, a site that has seen over a decade of abandonment, two major fires and a failed residential development; the building has been designed to set a benchmark in quality for subsequent buildings on the Springfield site. Creating a composition of the most retainable historic buildings on the site and contemporary but complimentary architecture to deliver a cutting-edge facility. The imaginative pairing of the old and new will be of particular relevance, acting as a live case-study for the SOABE’s students.
The design provides a robust, flexible layout that offers scope for adaptation depending on the changing needs of the University. The new-build elements are designed to complement the existing retained building, echoing historic building lines and scale. Comprehensive repairs will ensure that the retained buildings are sensitively restored; ensuring that the layers of history, character of the buildings and a physical record of the adaption of the site over the years is retained.
A sawtooth roofscape echoes an industrial form and surviving buildings on the site that were once part of the Brewery complex. Photovoltaics are intended to the south facing planes with glazing to the north providing the ideal usage of sunlight for powering the building and day-lighting -lighting to the design studios on the second floor of the new building. The façade setting out is generated from the roof form with six bays of general teaching spaces and studios, which take advantage of the north light offered by the saw-tooth roof. Each two-storey bay is elevated with a panel of bronze coloured metal cladding and a vertical strip of glazing that wraps up and into the profile of the roof. As well as providing solar shading, vertical fins alter the appearance of the building as one moves past.
Internally, a grand open staircase and internal colonnade ghost the positions of the original fermenting and growing rooms. The form of the atrium is generated from an existing courtyard from the 1892 complex which was lost with the development of the site through the years, this space will provide a social heart of the building, offering exhibition areas, a café and shared learning space. It will also draw students approaching from the different entrances into a unifying central space.
A large lecture theatre will be developed as an ‘immersive theatre’ where the subject matter can be ‘hands-on’. This double-height space will exploit the significant level change from the base of the atrium to the courtyard level, providing level access to outside and to the lower level at the front of the lecture theatre via a platform lift.
The floor plate is kept as flexible and open plan as possible, with studios opening out onto smaller, informal spaces overlooking the atrium. Three large studios overlook the courtyard to the east, whilst along the west of the building a single ‘superstudio’ offers clear, unobstructed space for the entire length of the building. The intention being that any required separation between spaces will be provided by temporary partitions or freestanding exhibition walls.
A suite of state-of-the-art laboratory and workshop spaces robustly designed to remain flexible and resilient to future aspirations. The new school will have extensive investment in Digital Futures technology, teaching facilities and research for the built environment.