University Green Heart Project Opens

The new Green Heart has reclaimed green space at the centre of campus, opening up the area for students, staff and the local community to enjoy.

Construction began in 2017 and involved the demolition of the former library. Views from staff and students were factored into the final design, which includes:

  • A range of wild flowers and native plants, 160 new trees and nesting sites
  • Space for markets, performances and events, including a grass auditorium
  • A new café and bar, set to open later in 2019
  • Dedicated areas for art, sculptures and the University’s collections.

The Green Heart restored the historic walkway between North Gate and Chancellor’s Court, as envisaged when the University was built in the early 1900s. It does this with a focus of the next generation bringing together the best of 21st Century design.

The space features comprehensive WiFi coverage, digital information totems, and a Pavegen walkway which will generate data and off-grid electricity for USB charging points in benches on the site. In addition, step free access across campus is now much improved and paving has been specifically designed with tapping points for white stick users.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir David Eastwood, joined Guild President Reece Roberts in ceremonially opening the North Gates onto the new view for the first time this morning, commemorating the project’s completion.

Professor Eastwood said: “The work of the last 15 months has been extraordinary. With some 160 trees planted as part of this project, the Green Heart is now home to more than 300 trees. This is a good example of our ambition to create a space that will become a thriving hub of biodiversity, provide flexible outdoor spaces for students, staff and the community and a sustainable heart to this Edgbaston campus.

“Looking ahead, the Green Heart will play host to many different activities in the years to come. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the amphitheatre in use at the Green Heart Festival this summer, when the Green Heart will be in full bloom.”

The Green Heart was designed by Churchman Landscape Architects, with support from  Associated Architects, and was constructed by Willmott Dixon Construction. The lighting was designed by Speirs and Major, with other key roles in the development undertaken by Couch Perry WilkesArup and Currie and Brown.

Chris Churchman, Director of Churchman Landscape Architects and designer of the Green Heart, said: “It has been a great honour to work on this project and a rewarding experience to see our vision realised. We believe the Green Heart provides the University with a landmark space which students and staff will now fully enjoy and adopt as their own. The quality of the completed scheme is testament to the commitment of the University together with Willmott Dixon Construction and their specialist suppliers.”

Associated Architects Director Warren Jukes said: “The Green Heart has been an exciting journey, from delivering the Main Library in an imagined context; to transforming the site with Churchman Landscape Architects into this enviable public space. Standing in the completed parkland is even more stunning than we visualised. It is an incredible example of a University understanding the importance of external space to the health and wellbeing of students, staff, visitors and the local community. We are looking forward to the maturing of the landscape and seeing people interact with it.”

Nick Gibb, Director of Willmott Dixon Construction, said: “It has been fantastic to have been part of the team creating this stunning parkland for the University of Birmingham and its local communities to use.

“I’m excited for the Green Heart Festival later in the year, where we’ll celebrate our joint vision for the space coming to life. It will see students, staff and communities enjoying the space to its full potential in the way we’d all imagined.”

Pavegen CEO and founder Laurence Kemball-Cook said: “We are proud to play our part in this fantastic development, embracing design and the latest technology to provide a unique environment for the University of Birmingham community. The Pavegen walkway provides a versatile platform which converts users’ footfall into off-grid energy to power local applications and which we are monitoring via a cloud-based platform, a first for a UK university.”

The Green Heart will be celebrated in June 2019 with a weekend-long launch event, bringing together all parts of the University. There will then follow 12 months of activities in the space, as it matures through the four seasons – the Green Heart Festival.

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Architect Hannah Kelsall is part of the RIBA and the BAA exhibition to honour International Women’s Day