Original features

September 24, 2009

The 16-storey Muirhead Tower, named after the University of Birmingham's first professor of philosophy, has become one of its iconic buildings.

Although Sir Philip Dowson's original 1971 facade has been retained, its interior has been refurbished by Associated Architects.

The building now houses the College of Social Sciences and the Cadbury Research Library, and offers ideal environmental conditions to preserve the celebrated Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts.

Officially opened last week, the tower incorporates 120 tonnes of new floor surfacing, about 60 miles of electrical cabling, and steel piles drilled 10m into the ground to reinforce the basement.

Solar-shading panels and low-energy fans help control temperatures in a building long considered too hot and stuffy in the summer and too cold and draughty in the winter.

Sensors ensure that lights are switched off whenever rooms are unoccupied.

The Muirhead Tower accommodates 150 academic offices, 230 "hubs" for postgraduate researchers, teaching rooms for up to 100 people and a 200-seat lecture theatre.

External lifts, wrapped in stainless steel, provide access to the podium level. An outpost of Starbucks forms a focal point of its mezzanine area.


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