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Oxford Brookes School of the Built Environment

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Putting the studio at the heart of the department comes up trumps for Oxford Brookes

Thinking Outside/Inside the Box

Oxford Brookes School of the Built Environment, 1 - 5 June Oxford Brookes University Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP

The Oxford Brookes Department of Architecture exhibition explodes with colour and zeal, each presentation as unique as the area of study it represents. 

Each projects’ concept is conveyed through a wild assortment of mixed media, with the few laser-cut models upstaged by collage, video, haunting renderings painted over with watercolour, hand drawings in charcoal, and floor plans and sections in elaborate antique frames.

Neil Burgess Time Machine

The work of the MSc Sustainable Performance & Design studio (a bioregional approach to physics and technology), boasts especially beautiful computer renderings and diagrams from tectonics to thermal flow.

Much of this content is trickling downward into the undergraduate program. This year undergraduates chose from eight units with a variety of focuses, amongst them: physical expressions of the temporal, co-habited infrastructures on the edges of city, migrant settlements in enclaves in Britain and hybrid typologies of public spaces along the River Thames. 

Joel Cullum


The unit on the “Virtual Corridor of Knowledge & Beauty” produced breathtaking mixed media drawings of spaces for scholars to meet along the “Varsity Line” from Oxford to Cambridge.

Though digital learning is highly encouraged, first year students are not allowed to present on the computer, and the first year studio exhibit is packed with painting, sketches, fantastical haphazard models, and case studies of 20th century masterworks.

The venue for the exhibition, Niall McLaughlin Architects-designed Digital Studio and Architecture School (2002), normally acts as the school’s studio. It’s two enormous floors house around 600 students on different days, the shared space intended to promote open learning, competition, and collaboration.

Hannah Sharkey

It’s an environment fostered by head of school Mark Swenarton and head of design John Stevenson. Their approach - making the open studio the heart of the department and, following from that, design work the heart of the course – is paying dividends.

More curiosity shop than design exhibition, Oxford Brookes’ studio system is in ebullient form

Will Clifton is a graduate of Yale University and is currently a postgraduate student of architecture at Rice University, Houston, Texas

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