The Bramhall Music Building Freize - The University of Birmingham,Edgbaston, Birmingham, U.K.
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Mike_bjm
N 52° 26.965 W 001° 55.793
30U E 572725 N 5811564
Quick Description: The Bramhall Music Building Frieze at the Edgbaston Campus of the University of Birmingham.
Location: West Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 5/23/2020 9:14:53 AM
Waymark Code: WM12GD4
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 3

Long Description:
The Bramhall Music Building Frieze at the Edgbaston Campus of the University of Birmingham was designed by Peter Randall-Page, over a hundred years after, Anning Bell designed the Friezes for the original Aston Webb buildings, including the Great Hall.

The Bramhall Music Building was constructed in a gap in the semi-circle of Chancellor's Court built in the early years of the twentieth century, and Peter Randall-Page understood the need for his Frieze to be in keeping with those of Anning Bell at the top of each of the original blocks.

The result is an attractive terracotta and cream abstract design which feels completely at home amongst those of 100 years ago.

In the article reproduced below the design process and techniques used to construct this Frieze are explained by the designer:

"The Proposal

Peter Randall-Page's work has explored the themes of pattern, music, theme and variation for many years. Below Peter outlines his ideas for the Bramhall Music Building Frieze; the role music has played in the design, where it fits within his overall body of work and its relationship to the existing architectural traditions on campus…

The premise of my proposal for the Bramhall Frieze is to use, as far as possible the same materials and technique as the existing Anning Bell Friezes on the Aston Webb Building, but to develop a contemporary design based on rhythm and pattern as a visual evocation of music.


The technique used in the original 1905 frieze is called 'Sgraffito'. This involves using terracotta tiles dipped in cream coloured slip. The slip is the scrapped away to reveal areas os terracotta on a cream ground, giving a two-colour image.

The Bramhall Frieze will comprise 910 handmade terracotta tiles. The tiles will be coated in slip, numbered then set up on my studio wall. I will then draw and scrape away my design in exactly the same way Anning Bell must have worked on the original friezes over 100 years ago. The tiles will then be fired before they are fixed to the building.


I am extremely interested in the related phenomena of theme and variation in music and explored this idea in both two and three dimensions. Variation without theme is chaotic and meaningless so with the Bramhall Frieze I wanted to establish a set of structural rules within which I could improvise and invent.

I decided to base these rules on the square tiling grind itself, in such a way that the lines always enter the centre of one side of a tile and always exist in the centre of an adjacent side. Between these and exist points I allow myself total freedom to take the line for a walk withing the square providing it does not cross itself or another line.

My aim is to achieve a balance between order and improvisation. At close quarters the image appears quite random, but seen from a distance, as it will be on the building, the deep underlying structures become apparent.


In music it seems to me that much of our pleasure derives from the tension between theme and variation. Baroque music and certain kinds of jazz are particularly good example of how underlying patterns are repeated, inverted and ornamented within an overall structure.

There is a simple pleasure and satisfaction about the music returning cyclically to its original theme after a convoluted digression. Music employs notes and intervals within the underlying thematic structure and I have tried to achieve this visually in my design.


I have always been fascinated by the relationship between order and randomness in the natural world and have used the concepts in my work for many years.

In the natural world there is a ubiquitous tendency for spontaneous pattern-formation mitigated by an equally strong tendency for random variation; in fact the dynamic tension between these polarities could be seen as driving the evolutionary process itself.

Pattern is fundamental to both natural phenomena and music, we are pattern-recognising creatures and out comprehension of the world is based on this ability.


The original Anning Bell frieze images comprise of a grid of 6" square tiles and I decided to use the same tiling system as the base of my design for the Bramhall Frieze. These structures will be based on diagonal and I have used rotational symmetry in the centre of the image where the two colours spiral together

Moving away to left and right the pattern becomes a series of zigzag alignments before separating to become terracotta islands at one end and cream islands at the other. I thought of one colour being like sound and the other like silence.

When the resulting drawing is translated into a two-colour image there is a near perfect balance between the terracotta and cream so the image can be read as terracotta and cream or vice versa, rather like the famous Rubin's Vase phenomenon, where the negative space between two profiles.

The overall effect should be a sense of metamorphosis from individual isolated shapes at each end to highly ordered spiralling rotational symmetry in the centre."


Artist: Peter Randall-Page

Bramhall Music Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom.

Web URL to relevant information: Not listed

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Poole/Freeman visited The Bramhall Music Building Freize - The University of Birmingham,Edgbaston, Birmingham, U.K. 6/19/2019 Poole/Freeman visited it