Green Heart, University of Birmingham,

A sensitive and sustainable balance of light and darkness, the lighting for this important social and educational hub facilitates freedom of movement while enabling richly varied opportunities for interaction and outdoor learning after dark.
University of Birmingham
Landscape Architect
Churchman Landscape Architects
Structural Engineers
James Newton
Project Team
Mark Major, Philip Rose

Green Heart, a striking new 12-acre public park at the University of Birmingham, connects the historic Edgbaston campus with student residences. 

A glowing halo of light created around the perimeter of the central lawn of the new Library Square combines with the lighting of the main circulatory routes to make the interlinking spaces of the park legible after dark, supporting orientation. Darker pockets in the central zones are permeated by softly lit tertiary transverse routes, with punctuation in the form of strong highlights to objects such as benches and architectural features. These focal points aid confident navigation and offer students and visitors an atmospheric place to congregate and socialise.

The carefully considered scale of light intensities and lighting control system ensures safe passage and a good sense of security while enhancing the park's character, protecting its ecology and minimising energy consumption.”

The highest lighting intensities occur on the primary pedestrian and cycle routes, and at the many changes of level across the park. The bridge features lighting integrated into the balustrade, creating a dramatic lit effect on the bridge floor. Lighting concealed within handrails highlights the staircases and selected pathways, as well as creating the halo effect to the sloping grass banks that surround the central lawn - an additional area of informal social and study space. Located at the top of a sloped bank between the new Library Square and existing University Square, the retained and relocated Heraldic shields have been lit as a feature, using ground recessed lights.

All circulation routes, planting and areas of encounter are lit in warm white light to evoke a relaxing character akin to an outdoor living room. The only exception is the lighting for the cascades of the water feature, which are enhanced using a tonally complementary cooler white light. The lighting equipment itself is scaled according to reflect the character of the different elements of the scheme. For the main routes that are adjacent to the university buildings, taller 8m and 10m timber columns with multiple spotlights help to reduce the number of columns overall. For the internal pedestrian routes, 4m timber columns provide a more human scale and a natural aesthetic that compliments the park design. In the darker landscaped zones, the routes are revealed through low-level light only.

Lighting to selected trees and foliage emphasises the natural character of the site. Glowing canopies announce the primary pedestrian entrance gateways, while rows of illuminated trees frame the views from the amphitheatre to create a sense of enclosure. In University Square to the south of the site, key trees are uplit, creating another series of spaces for social encounter beneath them.