Lancaster St will be home to 550 university students at the doorstep of Birmingham’s “Learning Quarter.” Sited within a rapidly developing corner of the city, the project’s 24 floor tower collaborates with adjacent developments to define a new gateway to central Birmingham. Its slender tower clearly stands apart from its neighbors. Its shape is articulated with chamfered corners which distinguish the tower from its base. Further, they animate the elevation by catching light and shadow, and create long rising lines to emphasize the tower’s verticality. It’s eight storey podium gives clear definition to the block, which will be activated by diverse activities on the ground floor.
The project’s facades offer a sense of movement and depth which emphasises the project’s verticality. An alternating pattern of solid pre-cast concrete panels and glazed openings wraps the project; it is a structural skin. It changes width in accordance with the rooms behind, creating an optical effect of undulation. It elongates as it stretches up the tower, drawing the eye upward.
The precast panels give the elevation a tactile dimension. We propose a light, warm hue that will stand in contrast to the darkness of nearby developments. The treatment of the material acknowledges Birmingham’s architectural legacy. It is equally influenced for the suppleness of its terra cotta buildings and the strength of its mid-century buildings – two vocabularies which marry structure, skin and tactility.