The School of Jewellery – a very contemporary environment
The School’s current building is light, spacious and extremely well-resourced. It is now Europe’s largest institution for training and education across the specialisation.
This was made possible by an extensive refurbishment programme between 1993 and 1995. At that time the School was part of Birmingham Polytechnic, whose governing body commissioned locally based Associated Architects to provide them with a unique and innovative facility.
The architects had to integrate the existing “Victorian Gothic” building of 1863 with the adjacent 1912 extension (both listed Grade 2), as well as a site further down the road.
Their success in doing so is recognised by two awards which came from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Civic Trust.
These plaques are proudly displayed on the front of the building.
As well as being visually inspirational the building functions extremely well. The architects sought advice from those who would be using the building with the result that it provides spaces perfectly suited to the activity of teaching small and large scale metalwork. Since the building has been in use it has attracted many visitors, architects and educators, from the UK and throughout the world, to see these principles in action.
Around an open central atrium varying teaching spaces are configured relating to three aspects of health and safety.
Studio Workshops provide cutout work benches with lights and gas torches plus design work stations for each student in a year group. Students can use these rooms between 8 in the morning and 8 in the evening (5 o’clock on Fridays) independent of staff supervision.
Process workshops contain larger soldering hearths under extraction hoods with pickling and cleaning facilities. These workshops also have polishing machines and other bench mounted powered equipment. Each studio workshop has access to one of the process workshops.
The Basement contains a full range of machinery, processes and equipment that require higher levels of supervision. As well as conventional tool room machines such as lathes and milling machines this area also includes some of the School’s CAD/CAM facilities; rooms dedicated to casting and electro-plating, and the gemmology laboratory.
Elsewhere in the School are areas specifically dedicated to: horology, computers, subject specialist library, stonesetting and enamelling workshops, seminar rooms and lecture theatre. The School has its own dedicated exhibition hall which, along with the atrium area hosts a lively and frequently changing, range of shows and displays.