Beecroft Building, University of Oxford
The physics department transformed
Beecroft Building is the home of one of the world’s most advanced theoretical and experimental physics departments and the first new physics building at Oxford University for 50 years.
Back in 2009, we were fascinated to see the head of department enthusiastically scrawling his ideas on a traditional blackboard (something which many theoretical physicists still prefer to work on). So we designed them into every office space and made a feature of double height curved blackboards in all the study platforms suspended in the building atrium.
Buildings in the centre of Oxford are restricted to a height of 18m. To accommodate the requirements of both the theorists and the experimentalists – including an extensive amount of services and plant for the tightly controlled lab environments – we created Oxford’s deepest basement at 16m below-ground. The experimental do-ers have two floors of below-ground research facilities which meet the highest global standards, with isolated ‘black box’ laboratories that keep the minutest vibration at bay.
Above ground, the thinkers have a space which has more in common with the latest workplace environments than a lab or university building, with offices and collaborations spaces arranged round a five-storey atrium, which visually connects and unites them.
The building’s form and facade were carefully designed in response to its varied context, close to listed buildings, a conservation area and among historic trees. The rhythm, vertical emphasis and colour of the facade’s naturally weathering bronze fins echo Keble College Chapel opposite. Large windows frame views into and out of the internal collaboration spaces, creating visual connections between activities within the building and its environment.