News from Site

image-1It is a tad chilly, and we are super grateful to everyone who has stopped to talk to us at Staff House which has been a bit of a wind tunnel today. It has been really nice to be back on campus, we were at the Barber Institute earlier for the VC Forum (we were not in attendance but gathering surveys outside) and were really frustrated that we don’t have the time to see the Collection which people were raving about! The new Library looks exciting too, but we are still hard at work gathering surveys so both will need to wait till another site visit. However, we are only here for today, so if you have not already done so, please pop by and complete our survey – it only takes five mins, and it would be a fantastic help.

We are back


Following the roaring success of our pop-up stall back in May, we will once more be on site for one day only.  On the 18th of October, we will be at the following three locations,

1. Opposite the fruit and veg stand between 10.00am and 11.30am

2. At the Barber Institute between 12noon and 2 pm

3. Opposite the fruit and veg stand between 2.30pm – 4.30pm

Scott, Nathan and Chris from our studio will be manning the stall. Scott and Chris will be asking you to take part a quick survey while Nathan will be asking you to engage in a concept testing exercise.  Last time you gave us some fabulous information and we hope to get a similar response this week as this might be the last time we can discuss your ideas so directly.   Try to catch the chaps on site if you can but if you do miss us keep an eye on the blog for future updates and polls.

What now…


Hello to everyone we met last term and an even bigger hello to the new first year. We hope you all had a smashing summer. The good news is that we will be continuing to consult with you and keep you up to date with the latest progress of the Green Heart Project right up until Christmas.

We began the Creative Consultation project back in the Spring of this year with a pop-up stall where we gathered over 100 Soft interviews, completed 20 cognitive maps created 23 concept plans and observed 51 behavioural maps.  Following this, in June we posted a series of 13 poll questions and were delighted when 199 of you cast 3,801 votes!

Our initial report was submitted to the University in August, and now we want to build on this by sharing the results and continuing to carry out consultation events.  Over the next couple of months, we plan to upload all of the results of our discussions with you, and we also plan on popping back to site with another pop-up stall/outdoor workshop.

Please keep an eye on the blog for news and updates of events and take part if you can.  We are looking forward to hearing even more interesting ideas.


Nomad Team.

Pop-up Workshop – Concept testing.

We are excited to confirm that we will be on campus this Wednesday at a pop-up stall to reveal the emerging design for the new Green Heart space!

Last time we were on campus, we interviewed 134 of you.  We also mapped and observed the existing campus to find out how you use it, where the best and worst places are and gain insights into what you might want and need.  This time, we will be gathering feedback on the initial designs, and we will be joined by staff from Chris Churchman Landscape Architects to help answer your questions.

You can find us in University Square (Farmers Market site) between 10am – 4.30pm . You can’t miss us as we will be located in our inflatable igloo and dressed in our Green Heart T-Shirts.  Please do come along if you get the chance.  It is a unique opportunity to get an insight into the design process and speak with the designers.

Your feedback will be added to our initial research which will form the basis of a report that will be used to help develop the design to the next stage

See you on Wednesday!




The polls for the Green Heart project are now live! There are two poll pages available, one focusing on the staff and students of the University and the second aimed at the local community. Please click on the appropriate button below to take you to the right poll for you.

We are really passionate about getting as many of your thoughts, ideas and aspirations as possible to ensure we make the Green Heart Project truly unique and specific to UoB and it’s people, so please spread the word and encourage your friends and colleagues to take the polls




Community & Identity

The subjects of identity and community are always popular in the projects we undertake for universities. Identity is important to most people in contemporary society and we have found that understanding the real, rather than perceived identity of a place is often the route to creating a successful place.

Many new university spaces have been or are being developed across the country. Many of these, although pleasant contemporary environments, often lack certain qualities and subsequently can be a tad devoid of character. The most successful spaces we know always express something about the identity of that place and the community who inhabit it.

There are a myriad of ways in which this can be achieved, from the building and landscape architecture itself, through to the furniture specification, signage and artwork. We are frequently asked to write about this topic and there are two projects in our portfolio that illustrate the point well. These projects are very different yet just over a mile apart

The first project is a space for the University of Glasgow. In this project a huge glazed façade looks out onto the wonderful historic architecture of the campus, while original furniture borrowed from the period reading room is used as a link to the past. Finally artwork constructed from archive and University museum material displays a mixture of achievements, historical events, people and quirky cultural references, which could only be found in this place.

The second project is at Glasgow Caledonian University and provides a strong contrast to UoG. Here the architecture and internal structures have been used to express the concept of a forward thinking, ambitious, even brash place. The internal artwork reflects ideas about landscape, important in a city centre concrete campus, along with more practical references to subjects taught and studied and even some deliberately subversive elements.

So how can we uncover the real identity of University of Birmingham, and in particular reflect this within the external landscape of the Green Heart space?

From our interviews with students and staff conducted in the middle of May, we discovered the importance of the age and the architecture of the campus. References to Old Joe, redbrick, classic, prestigious and Russell Group were often used to describe the spaces, along with the words relaxed, social and friendly, used to describe the atmosphere of the community that inhabit it.

There were also several suggestions for water features, elevated spots, defined seating and in some cases sheltered or private areas to help support the community further. In response to another soft interview question regarding Identity, students and staff highlighted that the Green Heart space should remain green, open and leafy.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of Identity and Community for the Green Heart spaces. If you have something to say please leave your ideas in the comments section, or if you prefer, you can contribute in the upcoming polls, arriving shortly.

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!