Space to Think review 2012

Tuesday, 05 February 2013

Our campuses are being transformed. 2012 was an exciting year for Oxford Brookes' campus redevelopment and Space to Think. Here's our review.


2012 has been an exciting year for Oxford Brookes University’s campus redevelopments. We have seen the opening of the Abercrombie Extension and the completion of Westminster Halls of Residence. To take stock of all that’s happened in 2012, here’s the Space to Think review.

Abercrombie Opening

Over the summer Oxford Brookes’ Schools of Planning, Real Estate, Construction and Architecture moved into its new home. The Abercrombie extension marks the first stage in the £132m redevelopment of the Headington Campus. It represents just 20% of the total redevelopment, which will provide a new library, teaching and catering facilities as well as a purpose-built home for Student Central, the Careers Centre and the Students’ Union.

The Abercrombie Building consists of the original building and a large scale extension. The two buildings are joined with a stunning glass roofed atrium, which is linked by a number of platforms and four brightly coloured glass bridges.

The atrium is an integral part of Abercrombie’s design philosophy, essential for natural light and the passive air flow of the building. As well as providing free movement between the old and new parts of the building the platforms and bridges have other functions. The larger platforms provide places to meet and talk. The coloured glass bridges, reinforce the connectivity of the whole project, providing vibrant colour splashes that give the building’s users inspiring places to learn and work.

The first phase of our campus redevelopment has attracted the attention of the Architectural press. Read the cover feature from the Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA) Journal online.

Pavilion Project


The Glass Tank exhibition space played host and showcased work from our Fine Art and Architecture students. The Pavilion Project is a collaboration between both Schools and Oxford Brookes’ Capital Projects Team (the campus redevelopment project managers). With the end objective being a student designed installation going on to the Piazza outdoor space on the Headington Road. There were 17 entries in total, for a low down on all the entries you can find out more here.

The Pavilion Project was in residence in the Glass Tank for three weeks and was well received by all who visited. At the award ceremony Vice Chancellor Janet Beer added “I hope that this marks the first of many collaborative projects between students in Art and students in Architecture as I think it is a fantastic interdisciplinary initiative.”

The winning entry is called the Rain Pavilion. This semester the student design team will work with Capital Projects, landscape architects (Land Use) and structural engineers (Rambol) in order to progress the project forwards. In addition the Forum Pavilion, which was given a commendation award is set to be constructed in the Central Courtyard next to the Glass Tank. Keep any eye out on Space to Think for progress reports on both projects.

Westminster Halls

Oxford Brookes welcomed students to its newest halls in September. The Westminster Halls are situated in our Harcourt Hill Campus and are a short walk from both the teaching and sporting facilities. They have been designed to recognise the changing needs of students, with the provision of leisure facilities and both cluster flats and studios.

The Halls recognise the contribution of two key stakeholders in the development of the Harcourt Hill Campus and are named the Frances Young Building and the Trevor Hughes Building.

Dem & Darcy

To make way for the Colonnade and the Piazza at the face of Headington Road we saw the demolition of both Darcy and Dem buildings. Darcy was the first building to have been constructed on the Headington site in 1953. We look forward to seeing the tree lined Piazza and the new entrance to our Headington Campus take their place.

Watch a short video of the Darcy demolition.

Cladding façade

In 2012 most of the facades or exterior curtain walling went up around the new building. According to Chief Façade Engineer Kevin Yin, with 63 different facades that encase the John Henry Brookes Building “you could write a text book solely on the facades”.

Different materials have been used dependent on where they are being used. Some have been designed to reduce solar glare, some to keep the warmth in and protect against the wind and others have been designed to safeguard the privacy of our neighbours whilst allowing good levels of natural light into the building. If you want a further insight into the processes involved, Build Talk 6, Space to Think’s Architecture presentation series, was by Geesha Gopal and Kevin Yin of Rambol Facades.

Wheatley and Harcourt Masterplan exhibitions

Whilst we have made improvements to both Harcourt Hill and Wheatley campuses in recent years, we want to go much further. With this in mind, in October we consulted on our long term plans for both campuses. Plans at both campuses centred around improving teaching and learning spaces, as well as some plans to provide new residential accommodation.

At Wheatley, the plans would see the removal of the tower block as well the creation of a green corridor running through the centre of the campus. We are happy to report that this Masterplan has since been adopted by South Oxfordshire District Council as a Supplementary Planning Document.

At Harcourt, the Masterplan respects the history of the site by preserving the chapel and enhancing its standing. Improved academic buildings and landscaping are also proposed to ensure that students have the best possible experience whilst learning and relaxing on the campus.

To see a short film on our proposals at Harcourt click here and for Wheatley, follow this link

Wheatley Access Road

The University’s plans to improve access to Wheatley campus and cut down traffic in Wheatley village were approved in February 2012.

The new road will join the A40 slip road and give direct access to the campus without passing through the village. The project will also provide Wheatley Park School with safer bus parking and upgrade the nearby Park Hill roundabout.

Approval for the project was a crucial first step toward any future development at Wheatley, and the first stage of road construction will begin this year.

Site Tours

There were more than a dozen construction site tours at Headington Road last year, giving over 150 staff and students a behind-the-scenes insight into the new building.

Guided by Ian Russell, Project Manager for contractor Laing O’Rourke, visitors to the site have seen progress on the John Henry Brookes Building from up close, including the first internal fixtures, the fitting of cladding and the closing of the roof.

Tours will continue to run in 2013. Please email to request a space on a future tour.

The Lab in Abercrombie

The Space to Think team launched the Lab in February 2012, providing a space for staff, students and visitors to learn about the new building and the opportunity to influence decisions such as furniture choice, catering and layout.

We held a coffee tasting which helped choose the blend served in the Abercrombie Café. The desks fitted to seats in the lecture theatre were made bigger after students told us they were too small for laptops. And for the first time we could welcome Open Day visitors to a space which was dedicated to helping them see the new buildings they may choose to study in.

Staff have also made use of the Lab by booking it for meetings, events and seminars. If you’d like to make use of the Lab, please email

Student Redevelopment Group

Throughout 2012 we have run the Student Redevelopment Group. The group was formed in 2011, to help explore what students want and how they may use the new building.

A redevelopment project of this size presents an immense opportunity to create an estate to reflect the University’s vision of being student centric. Much of the fabric of the building is now decided but there are remaining decisions for some non-structural features and services. Last semester we discussed how the new library and Oxford Brookes Information Solutions (OBIS) will meet student needs in the new John Henry Brookes Building.

The Student Redevelopment Group provides us with the opportunity to influence change in our university in a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere.

Shweta Soni - 3rd year English and Drama

Are you a current student? The Student Redevelopment Group would like your input. As well as providing vital information to Oxford Brookes you will also develop your communication skills and add weight to your CV. To sign up email

Build Talks

The Build Talks are a series of presentations designed to give students an insight into how a live project works. We invited industry experts who are working on the campus redevelopment to present to students.

"The build talk series has been awesome. It helped provide insight into a live project from so many different angles with all the different people responsible sharing their thoughts and experiences. The talks explained how the new library & teaching building was first drawn up in concepts, the planning process as well as the engineering and construction of the structure we have today."

Tobias Fett – 3rd year Planning

The first series of Build Talks are available to watch online. This semester you can sign up to Build Talks on Tuesday lunchtimes at 12.00 by emailing