Muirhead Tower

Muirhead Tower was designed by Sir Philip Dowson of Arup Associates and was completed in 1969 as the Arts and Commerce Building. The iconic two tower building with its expressed concrete structure and podium had become beset with technical problems, resulting in it being shrouded in scaffolding for over 20 years.

Associated Architects was appointed to refurbish Muirhead Tower to accommodate the College of Social Sciences and the Cadbury Research Library, which houses the Special Collections and Archives of the University of Birmingham. The key challenge was how to how to do so, by being sensitive to the original concept whilst creating a new dynamic teaching and learning environment, that would re-vitalise the building in its location at the heart of the campus.

The University’s aspiration, in a competing Higher Educational market place, was to provide staff and students with the best working environment, acknowledging the constraints of the existing building. The College of Social Sciences required the provision of academic offices, learning and meeting spaces. In addition there are a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate learning and teaching spaces contained within the two twelve-storey towers.

The building’s podium was refurbished and extended to accommodate a 200 seat lecture theatre, new exhibition and display space, reception and a 120 seat café space. The two levels below the podium house the Cadbury Research Library including three BS5454 archive standard book repositories, search and seminar rooms, academic offices and conservation studio.

“This project was about restoring one of the University’s most important buildings for the 21st century. The design keeps the concrete structure as designed by Sir Philip Dowson, but completely transforms the interior and exterior to create a space that is functional but also beautiful.”
Ian Barker, Director of Estates, University of Birmingham

Client: University of Birmingham
Project Value: £25m
Completed: 2009
Awards: RICS 2010

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