Student Redevelopment Group - Furniture & New Building

Friday, 22 March 2013


The Student Redevelopment group convened to discuss the latest furniture proposal and Space to Think communications about the John Henry Brookes Building.

The first of this semester’s Student Redevelopment Groups convened in the Space to Think Lab to discuss furniture proposals for the Forum and the opening of the John Henry Brookes Building.

Design Engine’s John Ridgett gave an overview of the key functions of the Forum and explained the proposal for the furniture.

The forum will have zoned areas serving a variety of purposes.

  • High back furniture has been put in to create walkways through the forum.
  • The outside of the lecture theatre will be clad in oak and acoustic material./li>
  • There will be electrical power points in most of the seating areas.
  • Seating has been created to engender easy to populate group spaces.
  • To enhance the flexibility of the space stalls with casters will be used.
  • Most of the sofas will be for three persons rather than two.
  • In between the café and the main working area there will be a central piece of furniture.

The Forum will be one of many new spaces within the John Henry Brookes Building, it will become the heart of Oxford Brookes University’s Headington Road Campus. It will be a place where students can engage in group work, meet with friends and socialise as the day goes on.

Will the forum change how students work?

Some research had been undertaken that highlighted most students preferred to use the library for group work at present. The Space to Think team asked the Student Redevelopment Group whether they agreed that the Forum would change how students conducted group work.

The general feeling of the group was that the Forum definitely had the potential to change how groups worked in Oxford Brookes. They really liked the layout of the Forum and also the selection of furniture. Students highlighted that it is often the case that when students meet they will be meeting in order to bring presentations together and that screens are important.

One of the other new spaces, the Platform, has been designed with group areas and screens that can be connected to laptops. When students were shown a view of the Platform they liked the look and purpose of the space. There was a fear however that some students could monopolise the area and may not use it for its key purpose. It was proposed that management of this space may be considered. Some of the new spaces will definitely require a shift in how students presently work at Oxford Brookes.

The Forum will primarily be used for group and social activities. Thinking about the proposed furniture, how can we best support both of these without conflict?

Students like the booth concept which can be seen in the Space to Think Lab at the moment. A bit of debate about furniture colour ensued, some thought possibly too dark and other suggested they would not want any brighter furniture. The Architect made the point that images did give a slight monochrome feel and that with people in the space the Forum would have a colourful and lively feel. John even went as far as to say, if the Student Redevelopment Group thought the area wasn’t colourful enough when it was finished and populated he’d take them out to dinner.

Students also noted that they are all really looking forward to the new Union Hall and Union Bar. They can’t wait to see how the SU will settle into its new spaces.

Space to Think

Space to Think is the communications team for Oxford Brookes University’s campus redevelopments. Following the research we carried out we have found that a good number of students have heard about the new library. However, students seem to have less knowledge about other key areas of the campus redevelopment. We asked the group how we should increase the awareness of other new spaces in the John Henry Brookes building.

The Student Redevelopment Group suggested a number of ways we could engage with students.

  • Have more posters around the university telling people about the new spaces. Make them different to the normal branded posters and make them large.
  • In general get more imagery of the new building up around campus.
  • Show a large CGI image of the building on the hoarding on the Headington Road.
  • It could be good to have a central point where information can be disseminated. Students did highlight how beneficial the Lab has been to help them understand the new building. They noted however that not all students visit the Lab to find out what’s going on.
  • Communicate more that Abercrombie Atrium space is for everyone at Oxford Brookes and not just Built Environment students.
  • It would be good to show and tell people what’s happening on the building site.
  • Talk about the campus redevelopment as a building site, rather than referring to it as the new building or NLTB. It feels slightly more tangible.
  • Use the screens dotted around campus to tell people about the building. Though we should be careful to not make them feel like adverts.
  • Add more descriptions to the videos on the Space to Think website.

How should we celebrate the new building?

The overwhelming consensus was we should have a party to celebrate the opening of the building. Though it would be great to have prestigious people at the event, students would like to see fellow students have the honour of opening the building officially. Possibly using a ribbon around the whole building and those students who cut the ribbon could take their piece home as a souvenir of the day.

More specific ideas included having a wall where all attendees of the event could sign the wall so their name would be part of Oxford Brookes University’s history. This wall could take the form of a timeline, students and alumni could mark themselves along the wall according to when the studied at Oxford Brookes. Video link ups or live streaming of the event would also help make the event more inclusive to alumni and students who weren’t able to attend the event. This could also work well if a virtual timeline wall was created to work either alongside or instead of a physical representation of a wall.

The Student Redevelopment Group meets monthly. The purpose of the group is to engage with students and find out their opinions on matters concerning Oxford Brookes’ campus redevelopment. Our students’ opinions count.

Are you a student at Oxford Brookes? Do you agree or disagree with comments in this article. Let us know your thoughts at spacetothink@brookes.ac.uk