PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
BUILDING THE BLACK COUNTRY
TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARCHITECTS
The School of Architecture and Built Environment on the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield campus is now open, and training of the region’s next generation of architects is taking place within its walls.
Sitting on the former M&B Springfield Brewery, a site which had seen over a decade of abandonment, two major fires and a failed residential development, the ambitious £28m project, is now an impressive, cutting-edge facility which blends old and new together, providing an ideal case study for students to learn from.
Taking ownership of the new School of Architecture and Built Environment (SoABE) following completion of the building work which started in October 2018, Professor Geoff Layer, vice-chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, told Prosper, “This is a momentous occasion for the University and the culmination of a vision which has transformed a derelict piece of land into a magnificent place of learning and research which will change the way people view brownfield regeneration.
“Since the purchase of Springfield in 2014, the derelict site has been rejuvenated into a centre of excellence for construction and the built environment, delivering an unbeatable skills pathway for construction education and training from the age of 14 to senior professionals and acting as a catalyst for economic and social regeneration.
“The new School of Architecture and Built Environment is investing and growing to meet the demands of modern industry and our strong links with employers enable programmes to be developed to closely match their needs – this offers our graduates great employment opportunities upon completion of their degree course.”
The new building, designed by Birmingham based Associated Architects, is the latest addition to the University’s £100m investment in a new construction excellence campus at the former brewery.
Ana Silverio, Lecturer in Architecture/Architecture Technology, said, “I love it and so do the students. This is a new campus in which we have much better facilities than before; it’s state-of-the-art technology.
“We also have a good combination of old and new. It’s a good introduction for students as they have some models to work on, in which they need to intervene in existing buildings. Getting to see an example in the place they are actually studying is absolutely wonderful.”
On why she decided to lecture and train the next generation of architects, Ana added, “Architecture is very important because we are the ones who design buildings and the ones who need to make sure everything is well understood and represented in the drawings and the models.
“There are many principles that we have to follow. That buildings are functional; it’s not just about having something that is aesthetically pleasing. Students need to make sure that the buildings they design are functional and are good for the mental health of all of the users and at the same time, we need to take into consideration sustainability, especially nowadays with climate change. We have net-zero carbon targeting in the UK.
“It’s very important they do not only know how to design, but also take all of these aspects into consideration which is so important for the next, and upcoming, generations.”
One of Ana’s students, Nathan Millward, BSc (Hons) in Architectural Design Technology (ADT), is a second-year, part-time student.
Before joining the University, he completed a two-year BTEC programme in Construction and the Built Environment Level 3 at Dudley College of Technology and has been working at Birmingham-based Glancy Nicholls Architects since leaving school.
The student from Halesowen told Prosper, “I decided to come and study this course because I’ve always had a passion for drawing and I think architecture is the way for me and when I was in practice, I got directed down the route of ADT which is what I wanted to do.
“Studying in the new School of Architecture and Built Environment is really great. It’s brilliant to use the facilities and to take the building as inspiration. We can put that within our work so it’s great to have this all around us. We can learn about the materials used within this building which we can reflect as well.
“Studying in the Black Country and being in a local practice provides a real-insight. Working in the practice, we can make a real difference to this area but also studying in this area, we can take everything that’s around here back into practice so it’s good for the inspiration.
“To me, the opportunities and challenges for architecture in the Black County are exactly what the story of this building is; it’s all of the derelict buildings and trying to bring them back to life. It’s incorporating new designs to bring back the old, rustic look.”
On what it’s been like to study during a time of Covid-19, Nathan added, “It is tough studying as a student at these times, but I think the University has coped really well with it. The mix between online and offline is good and being back in has been more helpful.”
The School of Architecture and Built Environment was officially opened on Monday 19th October in a virtual celebration which was live-streamed on YouTube, which culminated in a live link-up to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Mayor of Wolverhampton, and graduate of the University, Councillor Claire Darke.