Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College

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Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College
Introduction Joseph Chamberlain is an outstanding sixth form college serving inner city Birmingham. The project involved the relocation of the whole college to a prominent new site in the city provided by Birmingham City Council. In addition to college academic space the project included a community sports facility, an outreach centre, performing arts facilities, cafe and social spaces. The new college accommodates approximately 1250-1300 pupils the large majority of which are Muslim. The Brief JCC students are drawn from one of the poorest areas in the UK where education is not traditionally valued and so the new college needed to be welcoming, inspirational and fun. As well as buzz and energy there was to be a pervading sense of ‘academic purposefulness’ that would enhance aspiration through a concentration on the quality of the learning environment. Site and planning constraints The site is very prominent - at the end of a long vista from central Birmingham and the building needed to be of sufficient presence and of landmark quality. Adjacent to a busy roundabout on an inner city ring road, the site is both noisy and polluted. The inner city location also meant that the personal safety of students and potential vandalism were serious concerns. The challenge was to create an open and welcoming building of urban significance that also safeguarded the students. Architectural approach The new buildings surround courtyards which provide both an calm and protected environment. They are aspirational too - deliberately bringing the feel of Oxbridge to the inner city. Each courtyard has a different character and degree of public accessibility which is reinforced by the nature of the spaces that surround it - making the building extremely legible. The tree-lined entrance boulevard is an extension of the street whilst access to the square court which is the focus for the social areas of the college, is controlled by the porter’s lodge. The final space in the sequence is the semi-circular garden enclosed by the academic areas – a place of quiet reflection presided over by the LRC. Within the building the approach has been to create an abundance of natural light and this is reflected in the treatment of the circulation areas - the glazed walls to the courtyards and the lightwells associated with the break out areas - as well as in the principal learning spaces. Materials and construction method The external road-facing elevations are constructed mainly as load-bearing masonry cavity walls. The masonry is traditionally detailed with deep reveals so as to create a sense of solidity. The inner courtyard-facing walls are much lighter and mainly fully glazed to maximise the sense of connection with the courtyards and to help with orientation. The upper levels of the garden courtyard are of white render to reflect light and provide a calm backdrop to the foliage of the new trees. Sustainability The materials and construction method were selected to maximize the environmental performance of the building and to minimize their environmental impact through consideration of embodied energy, responsible sourcing and the re-use of some materials such as the aggregate for the concrete frame. The building is mechanically ventilated due to the nature of the site but passively cooled through use of the exposed concrete frame. The use of artificial lighting is minimized by high levels of natural daylight and the use of intelligent lighting controls. The building is also environmentally zoned to allow different patterns of use – particularly at weekends. Social sustainability The engagement with community has been extensive. The support of community stakeholders and neighbourhood groups was fundamental to the result of the planning enquiry which judged that the benefits of the new college design justified the commercial development of the old site. A key stakeholder is Birmingham City Council who manage the Sports Centre - the main sports hall and changing areas are reserved for the College during the day but all other facilities are open to the community. Inclusion College students are drawn from one of the most deprived areas in the country traditionally associated with low aspiration and poor uptake of educational opportunities. 95% of the students are Muslim from a variety of different ethnic communities. Inclusion in its widest sense has therefore been a fundamental design driver. The College has a strong commitment to its immediate community and the design extends the range of facilities open to them. This is not just sports, theatre and social areas - for example the first floor crescent learning zone is used at weekends by the local Chinese community. There is also good access for those with disabilities. Consultations were held with all the College users and local council groups. The 7m slope across the site is addressed by creating three principal levels within the campus all of which are accessible at grade from the external areas and via lifts and ambulant staircases within the buildings. The bold use of colour has played a significant part in our inclusion strategy and significantly improves legibility. Delight in use "What I wanted was a college that was an island, a haven of possibilities where youngsters were safe so that it was almost as if they came through the glass and turned into students in a private world." Lynne Morris, College Principal "It was frankly breathtaking. The Principal has created an oasis of calm in the middle of the city." Liam Byrne, Minister for the West Midlands “It has been a joy to watch the response of our students, speechless for once, as they explore the spaces, protected by the handsome crescent and courtyard design.” Lynne Morris, College Principal “The building gives me motivation!” “It’s overwhelming – it makes me more enthusiastic about work.”


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Building Activity

  • updated and added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • Smok
    Smok commented
    about 7 years ago via iPhone