Philosophy of regeneration - Muirhead tower refurb completes

A £40 million two-year refurbishment of Muirhead tower at The University of Birmingham has been completed with the 16 storey building reopening in time for the new 09/10 academic year.

The tower by Philip Dowson of Arup Associates, 1968-9, was opened in 1971 and named after the University's first Professor of Philosophy. It is the new home of the College of Social Sciences and boasts state of the art teaching facilities including a 200 seat lecture theatre, 150 academic offices, 230 “hubs” for post graduate research students, teaching rooms for up to 100 people, exhibition area, hospitality suite, Starbucks Cafe at ground level and two purpose-built storage spaces for archives and rare books. The redevelopment covers 12,000m².

The building, which originally opened in 1971, was named after the university’s first Professor of Philosophy, John Henry Muirhead – one of the pioneers of training for social work, a subject that the university has taught and researched for more than a century.

The purpose built space, Cadbury Research Library, for the University's Special Collections will bring all of the university’s collections under one roof including the famous Mingana collection of middle-eastern manuscripts.

The space has been designed to be fire and moisture protected and temperature controlled to protect the priceless collection, which consists mainly of Arabic and Syriac Middle Eastern manuscripts, a very small number of Hebrew/Jewish works, coins, seals and a few clay tablets.

The Collection was founded in Birmingham between 1925 and 1929 by Edward Cadbury who named it after its collector, Alphonse Mingana.

The refurbishment was carried out by Associated Architects working alongside the original architect Philip Dowson of Arup Associates.

Refurbishment work taking place in 2008.

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.’

New stainless steel and concrete cladding has been introduced to contrast with Dowson's original designs and the repairs have allowed a new high performance glazing system which will control solar and thermal performance.


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