Old Gym

University of Birmingham

Project Value:

£7.5 million

Client:

Completion:

2018

Key Points

EPC Rating improvement from E – B

Creation of 265 student spaces

81-seater, tiered lecture theatre

Office space for 90 open-plan desks

A Saved History

Associated Architects continue its longstanding, collaborative partnership with University of Birmingham, and the Old Gym is testament to this working relationship. The Old Gym celebrates its 80th year since construction as the forefather of its architype, the first of its kind in the UK.

The gymnasium was purpose-built by the University following the Physical Training Act of 1937, promoted by the prime minister Neville Chamberlain as part of a drive to improve public health by integrating physical education into daily life. Due to the outbreak of WWII and the resulting limited supply of construction steelwork, the ‘Old Gym’ had stood incomplete on the upper floors.

Eighty years later and saved from demolition through clever conversion to high quality internal teaching and office accommodation, the building has received a contemporary two storey extension that finished the building as intended by the original architect Peacock & Bewlay.

Old & New

The high-performance extension sits respectfully back from the buff brick curtilage, giving clear delineation between the old and new. The black cube is the contrasting new and the final piece in the building’s long history on campus. The cube has been celebrated in abstract through decoration and details in the perforated metal, injecting a new lease of life into the unique build, whilst sensitively integrating new services both internally and externally.

The project utilises a low energy natural ventilation system throughout which provides a comfortable, user friendly working environment with minimal energy. Focused on health and wellbeing, a high percentage of new glazing has been achieved, offering plenty of natural daylight to its users and stunning views across the rural Edgbaston landscape.

Sustainable Re-use

The team chose a structural solution that upgraded existing structure rather than the usual full replacement of steelwork, although this complicated construction assembly it substantially reduced the embodied carbon energy of new steelwork into the building, a worthy approach in today’s environmental climate. It is now a sought-after facility at the University and fully occupied, and with it being a mixed-use facility gives an overall feeling of vibrancy, with a total rebranding of the building with energetic new graphics.