In 1990 we were commissioned to design a small, flexible research office building – Northbrook House – at Oxford Science Park, a joint venture development by the Prudential and Magdalen College. Although the client was initially sceptical of our ability to incorporate undercroft car parking within their tight budget, we were successful and the building received a 1993 Civic Trust Award.
The result was a 30,000 sq ft building on three levels, rising above a terrace which floats above undercroft parking. The parking is well sheltered from view by vegetation and topography, liberating adjacent land for extensive landscaping. Visitor car parking is at ground level. The raised terrace is the perfect security foil against potential break-in from ram-raiders.
The spatial organisation allows for single or multiple occupancy, providing clear and adaptable accommodation for businesses. The design and environmental control options allow each floor level to be fully naturally ventilated, or in part, through to full air conditioning.
The over-sailing roof to the south shades the full height glazing and provides a sheltered entrance area. To the east and west, cantilevered steel beams support horizontal curtains of stainless steel mesh which float 3 metres away from the façade to provide a visual buffer and shading to the continuous strip windows.
The design of the building develops a concept of hierarchical layers of envelope density from periphery to core along the east-west axis. The outer layer is expressed by the landscape foliage, proceeding through to the stainless steel mesh, a rendered masonry outer wall with continuous strip windows, and terminating with an inner wall of rendered masonry with ‘punched’ window openings which defines the inner ‘impluvium’ space.
The building was built in 1997, having been ‘put on ice’ during the UK property recession of the early 1990s.