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Bell Phillips reveals plans for mirror-clad office ‘hides’ in rural Oxfordshire


Bell Phillips Architects has revealed the first images of plans for a collection of hide-like, mirror-clad office pavilions next to a lagoon on the Harwell science campus in Oxfordshire

The scheme, won through a competition and approved by the local authoirty last year, is part of the ongoing development of the wider 117ha site, which is being masterplanned by Hawkins\Brown.

The innovation and business park outside Didcot formerly housed the main research establishment of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

According to Bell Phillips, the pavilions will be constructed off-site using high-performance SIPs panels and, once installed will offer ‘a distinctive and unconventional working environment, providing contemplative and tranquil spaces for people working on the campus’.

The practice, which has collaborated with landscape specialist Exterior Architects, describes the hides as ‘a series of sculptural forms arranged within a natural setting, their irregular, faceted forms of timber cladding and mirrored planes introduces a feel that complements the natural surroundings’.

Each pavilion will have a log-burning stove.

Hari Phillips, director at Bell Phillips Architects, said: ’Each hide has a unique internal layout informed by the specific characteristics of the site, outlook and setting. They all share the same qualities of ample light, expansive views and a calm atmosphere and will add to the choice of new workplaces on Harwell Campus.’

Work is expected to start on site this spring.

Bells phillips harwell hides floor plan

Bells phillips harwell hides floor plan

Architect’s view

The ‘hides’ are clad in naturally silvering oak and - in two cases - mirrored glass, orientated to enjoy views across the lagoon and positioned to minimise their impact upon the existing landscape and habitats. While each shares a common architectural language, fenestration, furniture and lighting are used carefully to achieve a pleasing range of working environments, as well as different relationships with the surrounding landscape.

A long, low-level window brings natural light into the Individual Working Hide and gives panoramic views over the lagoon for those sitting at the four desks within. Adjustable lighting allows users to vary the character of their space, with a simple bench beside a wood-burning stove enhancing the meditative, intimate and cosy ambience of the pavilion.

The Informal Hide has a brighter feel, thanks to a floor-to-ceiling mirror glazed panel bringing light into the space from the lagoon. Fixed furniture at the rear makes the remainder of the hide a more flexible space for a range of uses. In contrast, the Meeting Room Hide uses only two triangular rooflights to illuminate the space during the day. The rooflights provide glimpses to the tree canopies above, through which dappled light enters the space. Like its companions, it is internally clad with whitewashed plywood, and has a wood-burning stove, while a bespoke table and a simple bench provide a simple and calming space for meetings or individual work.

A final pavilion provides kitchen and toilet facilities.

Viewed from across the landscape, the hides appear as a series of sculptural forms arranged within their natural setting, with irregular faceted forms of timber cladding and mirrored planes that lend a contemporary character which nevertheless complements the natural surroundings. Much of the construction of the hides will be off-site in order to minimise the impact of the construction on the environment.

Int work rev large format compressed

Int work rev large format compressed

Project data

Architect Bell Phillips Architects
Client Harwell Campus
Planning consultant Carter Jonas
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
Structural engineer Webb Yates
Drainage engineer Webb Yates
Civil engineer Baynham Miekle
Landscape architect Exterior Architecture
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Anticipated start on site Spring 2020
Anticipated completion Autumn 2020


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Readers' comments (4)

  • I applaud the sentiment of the recessive and rather beautiful design, but could the architect please confirm the mirrored cladding has been run past an ecological consultant, as mirror-glass can be a great way to kill birds, especially fast flying waterfowl. They don't see it, and break their necks when they fly straight into it.... especially in waterside locations. Hundreds of thousands are lost to glass collisions each year.

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  • My thoughts too (though the birds surely will 'see it', in the form of their own reflections, and don't some birds tend to attack the 'intruder'?) - anyone in Bell Phillips know anything about birds, as opposed to bird hides?

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  • For ref. on the matter discussed above.

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  • Thanks for your comments. We’re aware of the issue and obviously don’t want to have a negative impact on the ecology of the site. The article and image suggest that the pavilions are largely mirrored. In fact there are only 3 mirrored facets, the remainder are timber. Our proposal is to tint the glass to match the cladding and look more solid, rather than to be a pure mirror as shown here. Be assured that this will be fully considered during the detailed design process.

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