Trees and the John Henry Brookes Building

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Trees are playing an important part throughout the development and are a key element in creating a dialogue between the building and the surrounding landscape.

Trees and the john henry brookes building

At least one good thing has come out of our long winter this year. It has meant that the planting season for trees has been extended. So if you pass by the Piazza construction site you’ll see a number of mature trees being planted into their new home.


Trees are playing an important part throughout the development and are a key element in creating a dialogue between the building and the surrounding landscape. Land Use, the Landscape Architects, have broken down the new landscaping into three distinct areas of planting. The tree lined Piazza will become the new entrance to the John Henry Brookes Building and the public face of Oxford Brookes University’s Headington campus. The Central Courtyard will be an internal space with a contemplative feel. The Terrace Courtyard outside the Terrace food court will see a flow of people as it will be used for al fresco eating.

The key trees that will be used on site are:

Maidenhair Tree – Piazza
With acid green foliage and an open canopy the Maidenhair trees will form part of the Headington Road tree line whilst allowing glancing views of the John Henry Brookes Building.
Pin Oak Tree – Piazza
This variety of Oak has a good resilience to urban environments. In Autumn the leaves will turn a reddish brown colour and will complement the Corten steel throughout the winter.
Unlike many Oaks, the Pin Oak holds onto its leaves until the new season’s leaves start to grow.
Running through the John Henry Brookes Building will be a ribbon of Corten Steel. Corten Steel was originally used in the sea freight industry, with its main property being its ability to oxidise and rust up to a certain point and then degrade no further. Design Engine, the Architects, have used this material with its rusty colour as a core design element to the new building.
Silver Birch – Central and Western Courtyards
A grove of Silver Birch will be planted in the Central Courtyard to help form this relaxing outdoor sanctuary.
The Silver Birch is a dainty lady, 
She wears a satin gown;
Edith Nesbit (author of the Railway Children)
Wedding Cake Tree – Central Courtyard
A deciduous tree originating from Japan, the tree gets its name from the way branches grow in tiers. During summer it will have small white flowers and the bright green leaves change to purple in the autumn.


Sawtooth Glass - LibraryAs well as the external areas being formed by clever landscaping, many of the internal areas have been designed with trees in mind. Design Engine have cleverly integrated the structure of trees into the new building. They were inspired to integrate tree cells into the design as they wanted to reference the University's strong environmental ethos.
The tree cell structures that are being used in the design have come from slides taken by Oxford Brookes’ Department of Biological and Medical Science. The features where you’ll find these tree cell designs are:-
  • An Oak cell structure on some of the glass faces of the John Henry Brookes Building – references Oxford Brookes’ old Oak Tree logo.
  • A pine cell structure has been used on the sawtooth glass of the library (opposite the International Centre – notes that the pine is the most used tree in paper production.
  • The Lime Tree is used in the Corten steel element around the perimeter of the campus – use of the Lime represents the most common indigenous tree in this part of Oxford.
Textured ConcreteAs well as looking good, the patterns on the glass and on some parts of the Corten steel assist in the environmental performance of the building by being part of the glare control system.
Internally there are also a number of wooden features to enjoy. Parts of the internal concrete frame have a rough-sawn softwood texture ingrained on to it. Plus, throughout the interiors of the project, timber is used in a variety of ways. The library’s reading rooms are clad in American Oak. The outside of the John Henry Brookes Lecture Theatre is clad in American Oak and internally with angled Walnut panels to improve the internal acoustics.

Tree Mirrored in glass

For a more in depth lowdown on the external landscaping, Ed Phillips from Land Use presented a Build Talk to some of our Architecture Students.Build Talk #8 – Landscape Architects (Land Use).
As new parts of the building take shape, we’ll be walking round and taking photos and movies so that you see the finishes and get a feel for the building before you move in. Follow us on twitter @space_to_think to keep up to date with when we add new features to our media gallery.