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The Exchange wins RIBA West Midlands Awards

The Exchange wins RIBA West Midlands Awards

We are delighted to share our recent award success, as Winner of a regional RIBA West Midlands Award, including a special award for Conservation. The refurbishment of the former Municipal Bank, forms part of a long term framework collaboration with the University of Birmingham. The refurbishment sees the building continue to thrive 90 years after its original opening, and is given a new lease of life. We would like to take the opportunity to celebrate The Exchange and our long term collaboration with the University, by highlighting some of the key interventions and features of the building.

External Architectural image of The Exchange in daylight

Glancy Nicholls Architects played a pivotal role in the delivery of the refurbishment and expansion of the Grade II listed former Municipal Bank, which now serves as a new campus for the University of Birmingham. The project involved transforming the vacant building, originally constructed in 1933, into a vibrant space that connects with the city and provides various facilities for the university and the community.

Given the building's deteriorated condition and the need to preserve its historical significance, extensive refurbishment and repair were necessary. Glancy Nicholls Architects worked closely with the University of Birmingham and Galliford Try to develop proposals to adapt the building for reuse while ensuring its heritage and history was honoured.

Early on in the project, challenges arose due to the building's poor condition, water ingress and the abundance of unknown information about its historical features. To address this, comprehensive surveys were conducted, including assessments for dry rot using Pip the Rot Dog to investigate the internal fabric without unnecessary destructive work. We also carried out a stonework survey and testing, paint analysis, and asbestos removal from historic fabric and features.

Brown Rot Hound on site in High Vis clothing
Internal Architectural Image of The Exchange prior to GNA works
Internal Architectural Image of The Exchange Prior to Works by GNA

Left: Pip the Rot Dog

Right: The Exchange Prior to Works

The design concept by Make Architects focused on maintaining the original building's formal arrangement while removing the rear ancillary façade to create a new entrance and public space. The extension, constructed using Ashlared Portland Stone and bronze cladding, harmoniously complements the existing building. GNA were appointed to develop the design with Galliford Try, University stakeholders and the wider estates team to ensure the building’s flow, fire strategy, catering and user experience were coordinated with the historic fabric.

Internally, the layout was optimized to maximize public engagement on the lower levels, minimising modifications to the original structure. The ground floor now houses a café in the central banking hall, which required substantial repair work to manage moisture ingress, preserve its polished limestone wall cladding and fibrous plasterwork coffers.

Conferencing facilities and a student incubator occupy the rooms surrounding the banking hall, with repairs and restoration carried out on their existing features. The first floor maintains the original office layouts, while a new extension supports an open plan layout. The second floor saw the conversion of the assembly room into a larger conferencing space, including the integration of AV technology and restoration of original plasterwork.

Group meeting space
Internal Architectural Image of The Exhange's Foyer
Room with tables, a venue space for events

Throughout the project, extensive surveys and investigations were conducted to better understand the building's history and execution. The restoration work encompassed a wide range of activities, from removing poor-quality plasterwork to repairing bronze features and timber panelling. Local craftsmen were employed whenever possible to support the local conservation skills sector, with GNA leading the design development discussions and coordination of trades.

The completion of the former Municipal Bank's refurbishment and transformation represents a successful collaboration between Glancy Nicholls Architects, the University of Birmingham, and Galliford Try, resulting in a revitalised landmark that both respects its heritage and provides modern amenities for the University and the local community.

Concept Design by Make Architects

Read the RIBA feature and find out more about The Exchange.