Wolverhampton University purchased a former brewery that had fallen into disrepair, while Associated Architects with Rodney Melville and Partners transformed it into a civic building of exemplary architectural design
West Midlands Regional Award winner
University of Wolverhampton School of Architecture and the Built Environment Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton
Associated Architects with Rodney Melville and Partners for University of Wolverhampton
Contract value: £26 million
Cost per m2: £3,304
The Mitchells & Butlers Brewery was once a major employer in the city of Wolverhampton. Following its closure in 1991 and two major fires, the brewery fell into disrepair, becoming a symbol of industrial decline on the edge of the Black Country. In 2015, the building was purchased by Wolverhampton University, which had the vision, courage and commitment to transform this historic relic into a civic building of exemplary architectural design. That vision was realised by Associated Architects, which has created a building that reflects the site's rich heritage while boldly pointing towards its future as a catalyst for further brownfield regeneration in the area.
The site’s history is woven into the fabric of this scheme, each design choice influenced by its industrial heritage. As a result, there is a richness to this building that echoes the past while creating a dynamic learning facility that encourages collaborative working across a number of different disciplines within the built environment.
The external cladding to the new parts is finished in brass and copper – a contemporary interpretation of the mottled brickwork that defines the old brewery’s unique character. A glazed rooftop cube mimicking the form of the original water tank acts as a beacon of light for the site.
Internally a band of dark grey monolithic panels forms a sturdy plinth, topped with a delicate arrangement of plywood fins. The clever articulation of space encourages you to engage with the building’s history at every turn. For example, a sawtooth plan frames views onto the historic facade, while the triple-height atrium, which echoes the footprint of the original 1892 courtyard, celebrates the original chimney stack that heroically extends through and beyond it.
The client’s and architect’s demonstrable commitment to reinventing this historic building is exemplary. This commitment has been strengthened even further by the establishment of the National Brownfield Institute on the site to create a hub of expertise.
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