A group of postgraduate students from our Architecture course have been shortlisted for the prestigious Philip Webb Award presented by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), becoming one of just seven chosen from a record-breaking number of entries. The only team entry on the list, our congratulations go to Bekkii Chim, Shannon Ciriaco, Frances Lacey, Annabel Linch, Huma Mahmood, Lechelle Ndlovu and James Timmins.
SPAB’s student design competition sets architects in the early stages of their career the challenge to devise a scheme which sympathetically revitalises a historic building of their choosing, incorporating both repair of existing fabric and a significant element of new work in a contemporary design.
Tutored by Michael Dring and Katriona Byrne, the team undertook this project as part of their Advanced Praxis module, which brings students close to the professional practices of the city through collaborative working and engaging in real life scenarios.
The team from Birmingham School of Architecture and Design worked alongside Donald Insall Architects, specialists in conservation practice, on their restoration project of Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath. The project called for careful appraisal of the site and the development of strategic and detailed designs to bring new life to the listed building. Alongside entry to the SPAB competition, the work was presented to Historic England who were impressed with the integrity, depth and rigour of the proposal.
We caught up with Bekkii Chim from the team to find out more:
Bekkii, can you tell us more about your project?
The project was about the repair and regeneration of the Grade II* listed Moseley Road Baths. It involved a carefully planned programme to give the full building renewed functionality to better serve the community that has been supporting it for many years.
Our intervention was a mix of repairs to ensure the longevity of the building and enhancement to bring the building into the modern age by upgrading the services. The key to unlocking many of the unused spaces in the building was to resolve the complicated access issues so we proposed a new ramp and lift to allow everyone to access all areas.
Alongside the architectural proposal, we also put forward a business plan, allocating new uses to different areas. This includes a new activity studio, creative studios, co-working pods and a multi-functional events hall in the Gala Pool. A new extension was also proposed to support the Gala Pool and allow access to the rear of the building.
What drew you to this building?
Moseley Road Baths was a very popular choice due to its unique premise. The building currently still doesn’t have a set plan for the future and that allowed us to explore many different potential ways it can be revived.
The inspiration really came from the community and story behind the building. Moseley Road Baths has a rich history serving the local people, stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century. The building itself is also unique in character with one of the most complete set of slipper baths in the country and the oldest working swimming pool in the UK. It is a much loved building and we wanted to contribute our ideas towards the current efforts to save and protect it for the benefit of future generations.
How did it feel to be shortlisted for this award?
We were quite anxious to hear from SPAB but when the news came we found it quite surreal. We worked hard on the project and are really proud of it. We are truly honoured and grateful that the judges appreciated our proposal.
What did you enjoy most about the project?
Most of us have very little experience with conservation projects so this was a great opportunity for us to try our hand at it alongside professional architects. We enjoyed the site visits where we had the opportunity to experience the building in a way not many people are able to. Being able to see the details and atmosphere of the building up close made us appreciate and enjoy the project more.
How did you find the experience of working with industry professionals?
It was really fulfilling to be able to collaborate and learn from the vast knowledge of the many professionals involved in the project. Having the opportunity to work alongside them provided us with an invaluable experience of the processes and challenges involved in working on a live conservation project that we can take forward and learn from in our future careers.
The project has given us a fantastic insight into designing respectful proposals within historically sensitive environments, and we’ll be able to build on this experience when working within the heritage sector.
What advice would you give to students starting an Architecture course?
Don’t be afraid of working outside of your comfort zone and have fun with it! It’s ok to make mistakes as you go along; it’s all part of the design process.
Congratulations to the team and their tutors, we look forward to the announcement of the award winner later in the year.