28 January 2013

RIBA publishes a prestigious review of the new Brookes Abercrombie building

Abercrombie Building

The Royal Institute of British Architects have reviewed the new Brookes Abercrombie building, and are impressed by its promising, and considerable presence.

The RIBA review highlighted a number of key positive aspects on the design and form of the campus redevelopment. Design Engine, a Winchester based practice, won the contract for the development of a new entrance building against serious competition. They proposed that you don’t just want a new building here and a new building there. You need to sort out your master plan radically, get demolishing, and go back to first principles. The original campus was designed in 1955 by city architect EG Chandler. The original plans defined generous courtyards; however, additions over the years have obscured the clarity of the original by reducing the open space.

Design Engine’s design returns to the 1950s plan and re-energises it with new buildings and a new circulation sequence. Their plan proposed the sliding of new buildings alongside the old, interlocking them. By upping the density of the built forms, it was possible to provide very generous public spaces – either new, as in the case with the entrance piazza, or reconfigured, 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, will contain a modern library, a 300 seater floating lecture theatre and the informal learning space dubbed the Forum. This spectacular open space will include informal ‘touch down’ spaces for laptop working and group discussion that are now a key part of many universities' facilities. It will also become the new home of Student Services and Oxford Brookes Students' Union.

The new building also uses an energy-efficient natural ventilation system, which supplies cool air in the summer and warm in the winter. The buildings' passive nature has helped the new building with a BREEAM 'excellent' rating. For more detail on the buildings' environmental credentials read 'Oxford Brookes Achieves BREEAM Excellent'.

The RIBA review concludes, “Design Engine is responding not only to the inherited built condition, but to the other known condition of high quality teaching and engaged students. If the original client and architect – Brookes and Chandler – could see the way their creation is turning out, I’d reckon they’d be quite satisfied”.

Read the full RIBA review