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Muirhead Tower, University of Birmingham by Associated Architects

[FIRST LOOK] Associated Architects has completed the £25 million overhaul of the University of Birmingham’s landmark 1970s Muirhead Tower

The practice worked alongside Philip Dowson of Arup Associates, the building’s (1971) original architect, on the revamp.

A spokesman for the practice said: ‘While being of exceptional architectural quality, [the tower] had suffered due to the technical limitations of its 1970’s construction techniques and materials with a corresponding poor environmental performance.

‘This had led to the wholesale failure of its glazing system and deterioration of its expressed concrete structure. [Our] design response answers all of these technical shortcomings and incorporates the dramatic rebuilding of the centrally expressed service core.’

The 12,000m² scheme for the University’s School of Social Sciences incorporates a new lecture theatre, exhibition space, student café and improved lifts and staircases.

Describing the practice’s approach, a spokesman for the AA said: ‘New elements expressed in stainless steel and concrete cladding are introduced in a contrasting contemporary aesthetic respectful to Philip Dowson’s original intentions (see picture below).

‘The tower’s expressive concrete frame has been repaired and a completely new high-performance glazing system integrated into it, to control solar and thermal performance in line with current best practice.’ 

The building opened to staff and students this month.

Project data

Type Of Project: University, providing academic offices/post graduate suites/café/lecture theatre and book repository
Structural Engineers: Faber Maunsell
Project Architect: Matthew Lucas, Associate – Associated Architects
Client: University of Birmingham
Tender date: November 2006
Start on site date: June 2007
Contract duration: 24 months
Gross internal floor area: 12,000 m²
Form of contract and/or procurement: Design and Build
Total cost: £25 million
M&e consultant: Couch Perry Wilkes
Quantity surveyor: RLF
Planning supervisor: RLF
Lighting consultant: Couch Perry Wilkes
Main contractor: Galliford Try
Selected subcontractors and suppliers: Sorba (cladding), Col Secure – curtain walling, Kone – lifts

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