Rain Pavilion artwork is a sensory experience for the community

Tuesday, 06 October 2015

Rain-Pavilion

Visitors to Oxford Brookes’ Headington Campus will be met with an extraordinary new piece of public art.

Located on the Piazza leading up the John Henry Brookes Building, the Rain Pavilion comprises steel, leaf-like structures stemming from a timber pool at the base. 

For a few minutes every hour during the day, a gentle shower of ‘rain’ falls from the extraordinary leaf-like canopy into the floating timber platform below giving the viewer and the whole community a sensory experience.

The design idea was originally conceived as a student design competition as part of the Oxford Brookes Public Art Strategy and campus redevelopment in 2012 won by then-Architecture students Alexandra Horsman and Charlotte Birch. The artwork idea was then developed and made a reality by a collaborative team of staff and students from both the School of Architecture and the School of Arts over a period of three years. 

The project has provided students with the opportunity to develop professional practice skills and graduate attributes, work closely with industry and to enhance their employability through this experiential learning.

Alison Honour, Associate Dean Student Experience, Oxford Brookes University

The pair, inspired by the Piazza, wanted the pavilion to reflect the sociable nature of this large and open space as well as creating something which would be an ‘experience’ to visit. Charlotte said: “Experiences are often enhanced or become more memorable through exaggerated senses so we focused on the idea of playing with sounds. 

“We experimented with the heights of 'tree-like' structures, metallic materials and varying thicknesses so as you moved through the space you could hear 'tip-tapping' of rain, to heavy drumming, to trickling, to dripping, to droplets of water hitting water.”

The project has been led by senior lecturers Ricardo Assis Rosa and Tiffany Black as part of a collaborate teaching initiative between the School of Architecture and the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes. The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the project gave the staff and students a rich experience, enhancing both teaching and learning at Brookes. 

Architecture student James Palmer was one of the students involved with the design development and manufacturing throughout his undergraduate study with Oxford Brookes and during the past year after graduating in 2014. Of being involved in the pavilion project, he said: “Working on the Rain Pavilion has been a fantastic educational experience. 

“It was a privilege to work alongside skilled engineers, joiners and metal workers in a truly collaborative way to create a bespoke piece of public art.”

James will be returning to Oxford Brookes as a postgraduate in September to study the MArchD Architecture course.

Alison Honour, Associate Dean Student Experience said: “It is exciting that our students and staff from two different academic areas at Brookes have been able to come together so successfully to collaborate on this interdisciplinary live project.  The project has provided students with the opportunity to develop professional practice skills and graduate attributes, work closely with industry and to enhance their employability through this experiential learning.

“Throughout its development there have been presentations to staff and students and the project has been progressed with the willing involvement of many internal and external design and manufacturing partners. 

“The completed work manifests the spirit of innovation, design and collaboration at the University and I hope it will bring much enjoyment to the wider community.” 

Commenting on how it feels to finally see the idea come to life, Alexandra commented: “We are absolutely over the moon! Working on the pavilion project has been fantastic. It provided invaluable experience and is something we very passionate about.

“We now just can't wait to see the Brookes students and staff enjoying the space!”