The Built Environment, Skills and Enterprise Centre at Wirral Metropolitan College, Birkenhead delivers a leading facility for the acquisition of technical skills, providing a local skill-base to deliver elements of the wider Wirral Waters masterplan over the next 30 years.
Occupying a prominent position on the water’s edge, the building is designed as a 360-degree form. The roof’s sculptural saw-tooth profile reflects its function and acknowledges Birkenhead’s historic dockland vernacular. The roof cowls add architectural accents to the roof and communicate the ventilation strategy to the students whilst providing a striking and clean profile in anticipation of views from future adjacent tall buildings.
“From the initial concept, through every stage of the design process, Glenn Howells Architects ensured that we were both involved and engaged. Their expert team really embraced the aims of our building project, ensuring lots of client liaison to include design workshops. They recognised our educational context and made sure that every aspect of the building project was used to support teaching and learning, particularly as the building is for construction skills.”
Vernacular dockland materials have been re-interpreted with crisp contemporary detailing to create a building that is rooted in its setting. All external materials are suitably robust to deal with the harsh marine environment and exterior metalwork was anodised to improve its resistance to corrosion. Well-designed junctions and detailing elevate the simple form and materials to something beautifully crafted; taking ordinary building materials and injecting new life into them.
The brief for the project was to create an education building of high architectural merit that acts as an ‘essay in construction’. By concentrating efforts on the details, GHA were able to reflect the principles of the College by instilling the ethic of quality workmanship. The clarity of composition and construction results in a simple, elegant and informative building.
The integration of Wirral Met College’s taught curriculum with the construction of the new campus was considered and maximised at every stage of the project – from briefing to construction. As such, by the end of the project over 300 students from the college gained experience on site building their own campus, with several taken into full-time employment by the contractor.