New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

University House

Posted October 12th, 2014 by Darren Stevenson with 1 Comment

This post was originally going to be about the work I have been doing at Birmingham University. Although it still is, its meaning has merged into learning more about this City and what it means to me, and how we all relate to it in different ways.

We are currently in the midst of re-roofing University House, originally a hall of residence constructed in 1912 and now after extensive renovation it is the home of the University’s Business School; it is situated in beautiful grounds in the conservation area of Edgbaston.


Edgbaston House under construction

The building is being re-roofed using a random slating method which is when there is no set size to each slate so you have to grade each one individually in size. It is a slow process and one I have never done before – what better setting to try and learn new skills – something that I always feel is so rewarding. Even so, it is a tireless job and one of the dirtiest I have worked on with 50+ (feels more like 100!) years of dust weighing us down. Years of dust, decades of dirt flittering like confetti into the sky; each part emblazoned with its own history of worry, tears, the joy of learning and progression.

photo 1-1

Random Slating method

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Up On the Roof

In the middle of the job this post started to change identity in part. As you probably know the tunnel closures through Birmingham City Centre over the Summer caused some chaos for people coming and going from work, and as this was my only route to the University it became somewhat of a hassle which resulted in taking all sorts of different routes through the City. As the traffic slowed down to walking pace it forced me to try a different route almost every evening.

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Views from above, over the University

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Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower in the distance

Initially this felt like such a headache adding so much time to my journey, but as I started to turn down roads that I had never been down or had just forgotten, I started to notice buildings I had never noticed before, never seen or had the time to really look at, I started to frame them in my mind like paintings in a gallery.


 My Journey to work; Queensway Tunnel through the City Centre

I was stunned by all of the details in these buildings and all of the work that went into them. Then I started to notice all of the buildings I have worked on over the years and strangely become a part of in the smallest of ways. These buildings always amaze me, the work that goes into creating something that will mean so much to so many for a million different reasons; and we just walk away from them, tools packed and onto the next job with memories and bruises, the dirt washed clean.

Although the tunnels are now open making my journey a little (a lot!) easier I hope to photograph some of the buildings I rediscovered and remembered throughout the City for a future post, documenting my journey to and from work.

As we twist and turn through these streets and thoughts start to wonder with boredom – there are so many ways we have ties to the buildings that surround us. This blog started with thoughts on learning and it ends with learning a little about what this City means to me.

One Response to “University House”

  1. Katy October 14, 2014

    Really interesting, look forward to your next blog! There are so many beautiful buildings throughout the City that go unnoticed.


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