Brammall Music Building

Project Overview

Client: University of Birmingham

Location: Birmingham City Centre

Architect: Glenn Howells Architects

Contractor: BAM

Value: £120,000

Programme: 14 Week

Materials: Timber, Sand Cast Lead

Brammall Music Building

Aston Webb’s grand semi-circle of buildings conceived for Birmingham University in 1900 was the original redbrick campus. But only four of its five neo-Byzantine pavilions were ever built.

When architect Aston Webb devised the University of Birmingham’s masterplan in 1900, it is unlikely that he thought it would take 112 years to finish. Webb came up with a plan consisting of a grand semi-circle of five linked pavilions arranged around an enormous Italianate clock tower. Academic facilities would be housed in the pavilions, with the clock tower forming the grand centrepiece of the scheme. The tower and four of the pavilions were built, but then the £250,000 budget ran out.

CEL Ltd won the tender with BAM to carry out the works on the fifth and final dome roof, which we have just completed.  The domed roof will house the Bramall Music auditorium, a state-of-the-art teaching space and research centre for the University of Birmingham's UK leading music department.  It will also perform as a 450 seat concert hall.

According to the architects, this is the biggest dome to be built in 60 years. It is almost identical in construction to the originals that were built in 1900’s, but with the addition of insulation.


It is made from a steel frame consisting of 24 curved segments linked by secondary members. A temporary platform was erected and used to position four segments at 90º to each other and the compression ring linking these at the top. The rest of the segments were added, then a vapour control layer. Lengths of 2” x 2” timber were stacked in strips on top to create the necessary depth for mineral wool insulation, followed by a waterproof membrane.

The timber boards were laid next.  These needed to be at 45º to the lead strips, which took a lot of planning. Fortunately the work was being done during a prolonged dry spell. The mop sticks - rounded strips of wood used to create raised seams for the lead - were fixed over the timber,

Then the lead could be laid over the top, a process unchanged in 100 years. A cupola was built off site at CEL headquarters, and then craned into position on top of the dome.