Maple leaf design and twisting fins turn car park into work of art in Oxford

Work has completed on our latest project at the University of Oxford. The mixed use Innovation Building has been designed to fulfil multiple briefs that will streamline distributions across the Old Road campus, provide a centralised car park for the estate to reduce traffic, and deliver new laboratory space and bio-escalator units for start-up research divisions.

As the campus is dedicated to innovative and specialist research, each building on site receives multiple deliveries each day. This, combined with the numerous ‘pocket’ car parks dotted around the site, creates an unfriendly environment for pedestrians. The new Innovation Building car park and distribution centre provides capacity for a centralised service to enhance safety and wellbeing across the campus and pave the way for a future ‘boulevard’ planned as part of the 2013 campus masterplan.

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The two floors of bio-escalator units are the first of their kind for the university, and deliver high-tech research facilities for start-up enterprises whose work will support and enhance the work already underway on the campus. There are another two floors of laboratory space, which have already been let by Danish firm Novo Nordisk.

Despite its varied requirements, the building is unified by an external design inspired by the trees found around the site. Aluminium fins, some twisting, some flat, surround the car park. A digital script was used to define specific twists so that the overall facade imitates a view through the trees. This design catches the light and relates to other buildings on the campus, such as the Old Road Campus Research Building, which was also inspired by the leafy surroundings.

The bio-escalator element of the building uses the maple leaf as artwork on its elevations, this time with four different details of the leaf screen printed onto opaque back-painted unitised cladding. These designs connect and can be seen as a whole from a distance, but when viewed up close use the depth of the double-glazed units to cast shadows and provide interest through the patterns.

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Internally, the building’s two functions are separated by ‘The Cut’, a 4-storey atrium with European Oak acoustic timber cladding and a full-height stair that links the functions and provides vertical access.

This is Make Architects’ fifth building on Oxford’s Old Road Campus. Last year, we opened our BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ Big Data Institute, the second phase of the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, which originally opened with the Make-designed Nuffield Department for Medicine in 2013.

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