The urban significance and sensitivity of the Beecroft Building site demands a respectful and carefully considered architectural and landscape response. The confined urban site is highly constrained by the location of the existing notable buildings including Keble College and Chapel, the Clarendon Laboratory and Martin Woods Lecture Theatre, and also a mature cedar tree planted in 1880, Parks Road and the University Park.
The aim was to create a distinctive and high-quality landscape environment; a new Quad for Oxford that will be of significant value and provide a setting for the Beecroft Building whilst acting as the front of house to the Science Area, contributing to the quality and diversity of the area.
The Quad links the Beecroft building to the wider science area of Oxford University and the wider public realm between the site, Parks Road and the Grade II Registered University Parks including a new connection into University Parks on Parks Road. The project was to provide a functional space for users of the new Beecroft Building and adjacent Martin Wood Lecture Theatre and Clarendon Building; an active frontage for the public art installation fronting Parks Road; forming a new link to University Parks and provision for a significant amount of cycle parking for building users with consideration for emergency and servicing access requirements.
The landscape was designed to provide a calm, functional, usable landscape for staff, students and visitors of the university. Materials are of a quality to reflect that of the new Beecroft Building and the existing buildings surrounding the site, including the Clarendon Laboratory and Martin Wood Lecture Theatres and the Grade I Listed Keble College and Chapel opposite. The colour palette was developed to complement the new building and provide a warmth to the landscape. The proposed design and material specification was reviewed with the University of Oxford’s Accessibility Consultant as part of the consultation process in order to ensure ease of access for all users.
The Blue Atlantic Cedar that was planted in 1880 at the centre of the Quad, is a wonderful asset to the site but created a significant constraint in terms of requiring levels across the site to be adjusted to tie in with both existing boundary levels and the new ground floor level of the Beecroft Building. The height of the building having to be restricted at planning meant that the ground floor level was lower than the surrounding landscape, thus creating additional constraints.
Landscape materials were selected for their durability and were designed for ease of maintenance or repair to ensure a high-quality finish that would retain the character of the landscape as it matures.
The planted buffer zone was located along the western boundary of the Quad to help mitigate the sound and pollution from traffic using the adjacent busy Parks Road, with planting selected to cope with the warmer climate and drier conditions created by the proximity of the existing Cedar.
The budget for the landscape was principally targeted at those areas where it would be appreciated, seeking to have a positive effect on the mental health and well-being of visitors to the site whilst improving biodiversity for local wildlife.
B|D collaborated as part of the design team to develop and realise the brief, liaising with stakeholders and the University Parks team who undertook the soft landscape planting, ensuring the requirements of users were considered and designed in to provide a landscape for all to enjoy.
Rebecca Fode, Associate at Hawkins\Brown Architects quotes:-
“…Working to a strict budget and with a multi-faceted stakeholder body BD successfully translated the original vision and design concept onto site. They worked very collaboratively with the wider project and client team, were enthusiastic throughout all project stages and quickly responded to unforeseen issues arising on site to ensure the constructed scheme was fully designed and coordinated with wider project challenges…”
Increasing biodiversity within the site through a variety of plant species, not only provides greater interest for people using the landscape but also provides food and shelter for insects and local wildlife.
This is a landscape that shows how Landscape Architects can develop the brief and work collaboratively as part of a design team. Liaising with stakeholders and having good attention to detail together with a good working relationship with the landscape contractor who understands the requirements to ensure delivery of a high-quality finish that the client and users require and the landscape deserves.
The project received overall winner of RIBA Awards South 2019 as ‘Building of the Year’ and we believe is deserving of a LILA award because of the significant improvement to this constrained landscape that now provides a high quality, valuable amenity space for use by staff, students and visitors alike in which to socialise after lectures or to find solitary space.
The pocket landscape of the Quad is set around the majestic Blue Atlantic Cedar, creating an oasis for wildlife within the otherwise developed landscape setting surrounding the Quad that connects to the wider University of Oxford campus.
Project location (Street, City, Country): Parks Road, Oxford, UK
Design year: 2015-2019
Year Built: 2019