Technology & Information

The topics of technology and information go hand-in-hand and the successful use of technology is more often than not linked to the quality of information it conveys to the reader or user. With continual developments and advancements there are many aspects in which technologies are now suitable for external spaces and the ever-changeable British weather that comes with it.

But what types of technology and Information do you think should be embedded within the landscape of the Green Heart space that would make it useful and innovative? What are your expectations and your requirements?

When we were on campus interviewing students & staff between the 10th and 12th of May, we asked a couple of questions that addressed these two topics and the responses were both vast and varied.

On the subject of technology – charging and wifi points appeared to be popular suggestions, with some students liking solar panels and even wind turbines as a method of providing power. Other suggestions involved more interactions around AV screens and smart phone apps that could be used to interact with, and supply information about, key spaces, buildings and relevant events. The notion of a large screen and integrated speaker systems were also highlighted as useful for events held by the University and other large organisations for music etc. Finally there were discussions around the inclusion of interactive art within the landscape and the possibility of projections onto the façades of buildings, adding a sense of drama or a backdrop to the space.

There is an argument however, that the Green Heart spaces should be an area in which to escape from technology? Should there be some sanctity of space – where one can just read a book or a newspaper? Or spaces where you are able to sit, and be in peace – an antidote to the stresses of study, work and the city?

While some of the students and staff interviewed would like to strip out all information from the outdoor spaces, some are keen for it to become a hub of information. A popular suggestion was that wayfinding and navigation could help inform people of daily events and activities around the campus. This could sit beside a richer stream of information highlighting the history of the campus, famous graduates and their achievements / inventions, along with the University’s teaching and research achievements. Suggestions also focused on raising awareness of student bodies and societies, possibly showcasing exhibitions and temporary galleries.

Now we would like to know what kind of technology & information you would like to see in the Green Heart space. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section, but if you prefer you can contribute in the upcoming polls which will be live in a couple of weeks.

Space & Function

This week’s blog story is by Chris Churchman of Churchman Landscape Architects, appointed as main contractor for completion of The Green Heart project:X:3334 UoB Green HeartImagesGeneralLA-Photoshop Exports3334

Hello, my name is Chris Churchman. Chris Churchman Landscape Architects have worked all over the UK and have extensive experience in designing spaces within the higher education sector.

Creating a large open space at the heart of the campus represents a major opportunity, it offers:

  • A place that the University can both identify with, and is recognised by;
  • A common ground for the enjoyment of all parts of the academic community;
  • A talking point, somewhere to dwell within, to engage with others, to trade and exchange ideas.

The Green Heart should be an active space supporting a diverse programme of events and uses, full of life throughout the day and at all times of the year. So the question is, how does the University fill this space that it is creating? And how does it ensure that people engage with it positively so that it is adopted as the central focus for student life rather than simply being a nice setting for the buildings?

To do this we believe The Green Heart needs to offer comfort, it needs ample spaces that meet user needs, whatever they might be. At a simple level it needs well-designed furniture, located in places that are sunny and sheltered, and include the sort of place that you might sit out in October through to March. It should provide spaces that have the flexibility to accommodate a diverse programme of uses and for a range of events, large and small. It should be well lit so that it offers a secure safe environment for evening use.

The space needs to be designed around the needs of all members of the academic community. Level changes on campus are challenging, for some it is currently difficult to negotiate, to travel from Arts to Muirhead or the Vale is currently not feasible for everyone. Early thoughts involve the use of a ramped bridge as a means of overcoming the most challenging access barriers.

We believe the space should be predominantly ‘green’ as the name suggests, but paved access routes need to recognise that the space is the point of connection across campus, people will pass through it many times in a day and in various ways, so paths need to be adequate in width and quality of surface.

Lastly, and most importantly, in order to be successful, the University has to breathe life into its Green Heart. As designers our role is to provide a stage that encourages occupations and adapts to the way in which people choose to use it.

The design is only at its starting point, and The Green Heart needs to develop narratives, it needs the students and the schools to adopt it, to enrich and to supplement it such that it can be perceived, interpreted and appreciated on many levels, so that the Green Heart has multiple facets and a diversity of meaning.

Right now there is a valuable opportunity to add your own thoughts as to what spaces and functions could or should be included in The Green Heart project. We would love to see your ideas and preferences in the comments section. If you prefer you can contribute to the polls which will be here in a few weeks time.

X:3334 UoB Green HeartBIM3-PublishedCURRENTCN - Coordinati


Thank you to everyone who took part in the interviews and mapping exercises this week on campus.

Despite the initial wet weather and it being in the middle of exam time, we had an unbelievable response and managed to conduct: 100 Soft interviews, complete 20 cognitive drawings, create 23 concept plans and observe 51 behavioral maps.

That’s a total of 194 students & staff over just three days!Site montageOver the next few weeks we will continue to load up stories, there will also be some polls for you to take part in, so please keep visiting the blog and keeping an eye on the ‘uobgreenheart’ twitter account.

We would love to hear what you think – This is a fantastic opportunity to generate the types of external spaces on campus that you would like to form The Green Heart Project.


Researchers Diary


Hello – My name is Santini and I am one of the designer/researchers currently working with Nomad on-site this week. Our goal is to speak to students, staff and visitors about your vision and ideas for The Green Heart Project. 

We arrived on campus late on Monday evening after a long car journey South from Glasgow.  Upon arrival we were keen to stretch our legs and started to explore the campus in the warm evening air.  Despite it being just before 10A.M. we were impressed with the numbers of students still rushing about around the main library getting ready to settle down for what must have been a long night of revision ahead of their approaching exams.

It was really lovely to hear Old Joe chiming out on the hour as we walked through the central squares, enjoying the various archways, tunnels and bridges that lead round the historic red brick buildings.

Yesterday was our first day on-site and despite it being a very busy time for everyone, we received a fantastic response from students and staff. We managed to interview to a total of 38 people and the information we were able to gather was really interesting and detailed. So far there has been real excitement for the scope of the Green Heart space and the vast majority of people we talked to were eager to share their ideas and thoughts on how the space could look and the range of activities that could be supported within it.

We were also able to carry out a further 51 mapping exercises. These will offer a valuable insight on the ways in which the existing campus is used and how staff, students and visitors experience the existing buildings and outdoor spaces.

We head back up to Scotland late Thursday afternoon, so if you have not had a chance to come and have a chat with Sara, Nathan and I, please do.  This afternoon we will be at The Hub, Shackleton and The Vale whilst on Thursday you can find us at Staff House until midday and at University Square, weather permitting, thereafter. There might even be some sweets left, but at this rate we can’t promise anything!


Outdoor spaces

Our human desire to make connections with outdoor spaces and Mother Nature has been the driving force that shapes how we have approached landscaping for many years.  The power of nature is obvious  –  whether it is a secluded green park in the centre of a busy city, or an impressive formal garden surrounding a grand stately home, a coastal trail connecting us to the sea, or a forest path inviting us into the woods, nature can inspire and move us or simply help us to relax.

We want your new landscaped spaces to be both innovative and unique.  For us this means that we must work with staff and students to design spaces that are exciting, functional, appropriate and reflect the community and identity of the users. We must also be aware of the project in its context and examine the latest thinking and design practice employed by universities, schools and colleges so that we may learn from the best and share the results.

Below are a small handful of recent projects that have been completed or are in the pipeline, that could help to you to imagine what the Green Heart space could look like at the University of Birmingham.

We particularly enjoyed:

Harvard Common Space Project - USA

Harvard Common Space Project – Massachusetts.  By Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc

The Harvard Commons space that encourages a feeling of community.

The Highline project - New York

The Highline Project – NY.  By James Corner Field Operations, with Diller Scofidio Renfro, Piet Oudolf

The spirit and identity of the High-Line project in the context of the original site’s use.

Queen Elizabeth olympic park - London

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – London.  By Hargreaves Associates, LDA Design, Sutton Vane Associates, University of Sheffield, Sarah Price

New Google Campus - California, by BIG

New Google Campus – California.  By BIG-Bjarke-Ingels Thomas Heatherwick Studio

The spaces and function of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park & new Google Campus

10,000 Bridges - Xi'an International Horticulture Exhibition

10’000 Bridges Exhibition – Xi’an.  By West 8

Schouwburgplein - Rotterdam

Schouwburgplein – Rotterdam.  By West 8

And the playfulness of both the 10,000 Bridges and Schouwburgplein projects.

Now we would like to know what kind of space you would like to see. We would love to see your thoughts and ideas in the comments section, but if you would prefer you can contribute in the upcoming polls.