Welcome to the blog for the Green Heart project at the University of Birmingham. We are creating a striking new parkland in the centre of the University’s historic campus; transforming it for the 21st century and beyond. With work beginning in early 2017, the Green Heart will be completed in 2019.
Measuring over 12 acres, the Green Heart project will open up the centre of campus for students, staff and the local community to enjoy. It will provide a multiuse space for performances, events and markets, while opening up views across the whole campus, as envisaged in the 1920s. The space will also enhance the setting of those buildings which border the Green Heart, including the new academic Library which opened in September 2016. It will open up new pedestrian and cycle routes, allowing students, staff and visitors to the campus to move across campus with ease. There will also be areas to showcase the University’s art collections, as well as a new café and bar, and improved signage and access to information.
The new space will also be a sustainable, natural and environmentally friendly landscape; both for people and wildlife. The Green Heart will bring an array of wild flowers and native plants to campus. These have been carefully selected to encourage local species, and we will be incorporating nesting sites to attract wildlife including bats, swifts and hedgehogs. As well as lush grass areas, we will plant 160 new trees, across 42 species, and protect 144 existing trees. This tapestry of colour and textures will improve air quality, provide shade and create a place of serenity. Water features will also provide a relaxing audio backdrop, be a natural source of drainage management and further attract wildlife.
We’ve also appointed lighting experts to develop zoned lighting which will incorporate timber columns and energy-saving techniques to complement the natural environment. Carefully managed systems will enable us to keep campus safe and bright, while delivering an ambient environment and minimising light pollution or waste. We have also incorporated energy generating paving which produces power when people walk across it, and rain gardens, which will accommodate all rainwater on-site, thus doing away with conventional drains.
Be part of the Green Heart journey here.
UoB Green Heart team
Could Urban Buzz help in creating some space for pollinators as part of your project?
Thanks for the invitation to comment.
If we are talking about “narratives” and multi-purpose spaces, then we have good reasons for preserving, while of course developing,the staircases and built escarpment at the front of the current library into a multi-purpose podium that would straddle the split levels of this part of the campus, and preserve the University Square as part of a wider “space”, while keeping alive the connection with the “narrative” of the use of this key feature of University Square as the special focus of School and Faculty photographs at Congregations in July and December. The community of alumni is very important, in fact never more important, and to destroy this locale would be extremely insensitive, and would make a mockery of any talk of “narratives”.
Such a structure, essentially the footprint of the library, but extending to the current North Carpark, could have have a very useful undercroft, with, logically, a tunnel running under it. The escarpment could be adapted to include long gentle ramps to left and right for wheelchairs, buggies etc., and could be modulated by flat sections. There could be water features. The “sense of place” currently created by the escarpment is also part of wider narratives which should on no account be obliterated. The built escarpment reflects a common and excellent feature of traditional urban articulation of natural changes of elevation, normal until the Second World War in British cities (after which they were replaced by the cheap grassy bank). But instead of the dreary grassy bank think of The Spanish Steps. A grassy bank, which I strongly suspect is part of your “green heart”, would abolish the sense of a coherent space (The University Square). Furthermore, the library was not an unfortunate intrusion into some wonderful “space”, as has been implied by recent references to the plans of ca.1900. It actually created a unique “civic” space instead of a pompous avenue of trees that ran from the North gate to the Aston Webb complex. And the Square was actually traversed by a street, as squares tend to be, which carried trams to the Old Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where they terminated. The University Square therefore, rightly, gave form to a vision of a civic university, a vision, with its narrative, to which we should remain connected through the narrative of this key component of its architecture. You imply in some of your interesting materials that we all want more and more ahistorical greenery, and therefore, in practice, no institutionally specific or city-specific visual narrative at the University Square. Is the name “University Square”, which I think plays no part in your presentation (but forgive me if I am wrong) , but which connects us to the city, to be “written out of the narrative” too?