The latest phase of the £300m campus extension at the University of Birmingham, designed by Sheppard Robson, ‘Collaborative Teaching Labs’, will encourage interdisciplinary working between STEM departments.
The new design for phase two of the Collaborative Teaching Labs at the University of Birmingham uses a bold architectural language to mark the arrival of a cutting-edge Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility. The architectural brief called for a structure that brings together all 14 departments within a collaborative environment, with striking architecture promoting the presence of pioneering facilities at the University.
The 72,120 sq ft building takes the shape of a robust brick structure, with variation in materiality and form to represent three different internal environments for dry, wet and computer laboratories. The front of the building is characterised by large angled brise-soleil made from gold anodised aluminium that project over the main entrance. Environmental computer modelling has been used to determine the size and positioning of these to create shading throughout the building; this controls solar gain, minimising energy use and carbon emissions.
At the heart of the project is the Discovery Lab – a large, public-facing space which can be used for collaborative projects, bringing departments together as well as used to invite schools into the facility to promote the sciences to younger students.
Alex Solk, Partner at Sheppard Robson, said: “The project has been designed to glue the departments together and encourage interaction between the different disciplines as well as between the University and other educational institutions. At the early stages of the project it became clear that co-location wasn’t enough; the design needed to proactively encourage collaboration with informal learning and teaching spaces interspersed with formal laboratories.”
The project has received £5m in government funding following £200m being available in the 2014 Budget for higher education institutions seeking to improve innovation within STEM subjects and increase their appeal to prospective students.