The Lighthouse, Aston

Part of a project by Birmingham Youth Services to deliver a series of world class youth facilities in disadvantaged communities in Birmingham.

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Project Value:

£5 million




Key Points

RIBA West Midlands 2014

Civic Trust Award 2014


Promoting youth collaboration to overcome local boundaries

Birmingham Youth Service secured funding from the myplace programme to develop and deliver a series of world class youth facilities in disadvantaged communities in Birmingham. We were appointed to design the myplace serving the communities of Aston, Lozells and Newtown.

The programme was promoted by a cross-sector consortium of community organisations working in partnership with Birmingham Youth Service. The consortium’s aim was to promote youth collaboration to overcome local boundaries, celebrate diversity, challenge gang affiliation, religious extremism and local conflicts in the community.

The Lighthouse was visioned as an iconic landmark within the community; a beacon for all young people between the ages of 13 and 19 that provided modern, high quality facilities in a safe and inclusive environment.

Readily accessible

Readily accessible ‘public’ informal and flexible spaces; group meeting rooms, IT rooms, social areas, café and advice centre, are provided at Ground floor level. More specialist and cellular accommodation is located on the upper floors, including a 4-court sports hall that can also be used for performance and conference uses, dance studio, changing facilities, music rooms including a recording studio and business enterprise units. Members of the local youth community were extensively consulted and involved throughout the scheme design process including visits to building precedents in London.

The Lighthouse is designed around the concept of passive surveillance, to create an open and welcoming environment without intrusive conventional security methods. Staff offices are located within a coloured pod at the Ground floor level that visually controls access into the building as well as the three-storey circulation space that runs up through the building.

Passive design principles

The external expression of the building seeks to clearly articulate the internal ‘private’ and ‘public’ areas within it. The highly active areas on the Ground floor are visible through full-height security glazing that offer clear views into and out of the centre. The upper floors are contained within a single volume cantilevered over the Ground floor that is visually expressed through the use of a semi-transparent coloured polycarbonate cladding. This materiality allows the building to take on varying characters at different times of the day, allows the sports hall to be naturally lit in the day, ensuring minimal reliance on artificial lighting. In the evening, the use of artificial lighting and feature LED lighting allows The Lighthouse to become a ‘beacon’ within the community.