The Birmingham School of Art

Click to enlarge
Birmingham School of Art

Now the Department of Art at the University of Central England. The building was designed as the Birmingham Municipal School of Art. It is J.H. Chamberlain's last work, and one of his finest. His devotion to Ruskin and his belief in the civic gospel are seamlessly expressed in its use of brick GothicGlossary Term and naturalistic ornament for a prestigious council project. He was appointed in January 1882 and completed the drawings just before his sudden death in October 1883. His partner William Martin executed the designs with Sapcote and Sons as contractors. The building owes its existence to a visionary head teacher, Edward R. Taylor, who was appointed to what was a Government school of design in 1877, and persuaded the Town Council to take it over. An early Arts and CraftsGlossary Term man, he changed teaching methods to emphasise craft skills with 'Art Laboratories' for subjects such as metalwork.

The foundation stone was laid on May 31 1884 and the school was opened in September 1885. It cost £21,254, of which the Tangye brothers gave £10,937 and Louisa Ryland £10,000. The site was given by William Barwick Cregoe Colmore, then re-planning his Newhall estate. An extension from the north end, running east along Cornwall Street was added by Martin & Chamberlain in 1892-3. By the late 1980s the building was in a poor state. Repair began in 1990-2 with the cleaning of the exterior and continued with refurbishment and renovation costing over £500,000 in 1993-6 by Associated Architects, who cleverly adapted some of the interior spaces, and recovered the major interiors after years of decay.

Click to enlarge
Birmingham School of Art

The whole exterior is tied together by a continuous plinthGlossary Term band of Doultons tilework containing lozenges of lilies and sunflowers on blue backgrounds, and by a repeating motif of a square containing a circular disc, usually containing a flower or leaf pattern, inside a quatrefoilGlossary Term, seen on e.g. stone panels breaking the tile friezeGlossary Term, and more simply on the original railings made by Hart & Co.


Arts and Crafts

Associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, an important offshoot of the later English Gothic Revival. Not so much a style as an approach to design, it sought truth to materials, high standards of craftsmanship, and an integration of decorative and fine arts, architecture included. Its representative figure is the writer and designer William Morris (1834-96).


The middle member of the classical entablature, sometimes ornamented. Pulvinated frieze (lit. cushioned): of bold convex profile. Also a horizontal band of ornament.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


Projecting courses at the foot of a wall or column, generally cut back (chamfered) or moulded at the top.


A four-lobed opening.