Design Engine, who are the architects of the Abercrombie extension and the new John Henry Brookes building at Oxford Brookes University have been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Regional Awards 2013.
Winchester-based practice Design Engine won the contract for the development of a new entrance building at Oxford Brookes against steep competition. The company proposed that rather than building a new building here and a new building thereto devise a radical master plan, get demolishing, and go back to first principles. The original campus at Oxford Brookes was designed in 1955 by city architect EG Chandler. The original plans defined generous courtyards, but additions over the years have obscured this clarity and reduced the open space available.
Design Engine’s vision returns to the 1950s plan and re-energises it with new buildings and a new circulation sequence. Their plan slides new buildings alongside the old, interlocking them together. By increasing the density of the built forms, it is possible to provide generous public spaces; either new spaces, as with the entrance piazza, or reconfigured spaces, as with the central courtyard.
Key to the design is the new John Henry Brookes Building which will serve as the new main entrance to the campus. The building will contain a modern library, a 300-seat floating lecture theatre and a learning space dubbed the ‘Forum’. The open space will include informal ‘touch down’ areas for the laptop working and group discussion that now form a key part of modern universities’ facilities. It will also become the new home of Student Services and Oxford Brookes Students’ Union.
Richard Rose Casemore, a Partner at Design Engine, is also a design tutor in the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University.